Monday, 17 March 2014

Women : 4 years a Slave under this Government

As Cameron and Clegg are gearing up for further huge budget cuts should the Tories either singularly,or in coalition, gain power again in 2015, one thing is certain ; slashing of both social security and local services budgets will impact women more than any other group. With Duncan-Smith already arguing with Cameron to cut winter fuel allowances, bus passes and TV licenses from the elderly in 2015, larger groups of women will be hit. More headlines, more stats are produced daily on a seemingly never ending production line, telling women just how unimportant this Government thinks they are. While the posh boys line their male frontbench up at PMQs weekly, women are facing on the frontline, the consequences of their policies.

While Clegg blindly blunders on with his free school meals for all 5-6 year olds, even where schools have no kitchens (no planning at all, just unthinking populist policy) or children are the offspring of millionaire parents, working poor households lose out even more than poor households on free school lunches. Many working poor households like mine have always had to pay either for full cost hot  school lunches or a packed lunch. Sometimes when my four sons were all in school the cost for hot lunches was £2.50 per day per child, £10 for our family and £50 per week. Needless to say they took a packed lunch. I vividly remember on a few occasions when I could not stretch lunches for all four boys, and sent the older two to high school empty handed, with an excuse to tell any concerned teacher. I then had beans on toast waiting as they came through the door after school. The guilt was overwhelming, but the cupboard was bare and the younger two sons had to be put first. There are more working poor families facing this huge dilemma as their wages can't stretch to school lunches as well as breakfast and tea. On the whole women are shouldering this guilt. Robbing Peter to feed Paul literally.

Not surprisingly 42 Tory MPs are members of  the Free Enterprise group which advocates VAT on kids clothes, baby food and prescriptions. Liz Truss, the aptly named "childcare minister" is one of them! All in it together!

Affordable childcare has hit all women regardless of class, but working class women the most. Childcare prices have rocketed under the Coalition as the population expands rapidly and the Tories only solution has been to increase the child to staff ratios in nurseries ,so ultimately our children have poorer quality care as staff face more children to care for. In smaller towns and rural areas finding childcare at all is a problem in itself. Labour are courting working mums votes by offering 25 hours per week for nursery aged children free of charge, but I feel they could be bolder as many mums and dads feel the strain of  childcare costs, not just on their pre-school children, but on those aged 5-11 too. After having met Miliband myself and argued the case for affordable childcare for parents of disabled children, I feel this sector of parents has once again been left to rot. Many parents of disabled children would like to work even part time, but are stuck on Carers Allowance of £59pw as there are no childcare providers either willing, specialised enough, or affordable to take on a disabled child. And why should they take that child on a 1:1 when they can take 6 able bodied children and so reap the extra income from those children?

Local social services departments have been cut to the bone. Many women over 45 may also be caring for elderly relatives and day care centres allow them to work. However, these services are being cut and women my age are shouldering a huge burden often caring for sick elderly relatives and bringing up their own children too. Women suffering domestic violence will soon have nowhere to turn to as the rate of closures of refuges escalates weekly. Combine this with the catastrophic closure of Sure Start Centres and women are losing vital lifelines and being cast adrift by this Government who mock the services women value.

Stats reveal more women work in the public sector who are being made redundant, and women are taking the brunt in jobs like  shop work on either low or zero hours contracts and on the minimum wage. Single women are struggling to even rent as landlords refuse tenancies to those on unsteady
contracts. Banks won't even discuss a mortgage unless women can provide evidence of full time permanent work.

Universal Credit is designed to hit women the hardest. Single parents will be particularly singled out as allowances for U 25s are slashed and the enhanced disability premium is cut altogether. Young carers where mum is severely disabled will be particularly hit by this cut. Even in 2 parent families, only 1 parent is allowed to make the claim. If a woman is caught up in a controlling relationship, the other partner may make the claim and thus deprive the woman of access to money for herself and any children. The payment is also made monthly not weekly, so women may go through the month with no funds or be forced to turn to Foodbanks in desperation. A vicious circle of deprivation will result.

Any woman on maternity leave may find herself out of work if unscrupulous employers decide to sack her at this vulnerable time. Legal aid to take an employer to a tribunal has been abolished and it costs £1200: something the woman has to find herself or lose her job. Employers know this and can exploit the system.

As a member of the working poor myself, I have felt the attack and been part of the 4 years as a slave under this government. Osborne and co will no doubt throw a few bones off the table to keep us sweet for 2015. Don't be fooled.  Use your vote wisely in 2015 and don't fall for Farage and his male " blokes" either all looking to join Cameron in a coalition, in order to keep women as second class citizens for another 5 years.

Women have throughout time changed the course of history. Isn't it time we changed the next 5 years by booting out the posh boys and pretenders like Ukip and using our voices, our actions, to getting policies that benefit, protect and promote women? These 4 years have been the dark ages for women and history books in time will document this. No more slave years. Now is the time for drastic change.