Labour’s Betrayal and why it’s a really good thing

I know everyone is very upset. Labour have betrayed the people etc etc etc ad infinitum. Here is what happened today, Labour maintained the same position they have had since the early nineties. In the late nineties they started the transformation of our benefits system, under the banner of asset based welfare.

In 2006 they were told it was unsustainable and effectively told that to continue this way would be throwing anyone who needed benefits in future under a bus and it has been at the core of their politics since, regardless. Exploitation of inequality for political gain to perpetuate the financialisation of our economy. The reshaping of our entire political economy to suit finance. Sold by their media culture.

It’s really difficult to accept that. Accepting that means accepting that our democracy has been broken for a very long time. That the nexus of media, finance and politics, has broken democracy and we didn’t notice. It’s very easy to stay in denial rather than face that.

Once you accept that Labour’s position is as it has always been, you have to quickly move on. Because then you have to start considering the bigger implications. This is frightening, so we revert back to ‘Labour will save us one day’.

When Owen Jones and Sunny Hundal and the Labour cyber guppies were sent out to make sure there was no discussion of austerity in the Labour focused anti-cuts movement, the reason they enjoyed that initial success was because when they said there is no alternative, it reassured people. So they didn’t have to move past Labour and ponder those very difficult questions. This is why that culture got away with abusing vulnerable people, gaslighting, defamation.

But once you let it go, once you accept that actually the system of think tanks, newspapers and dead political parties keeping democracy in the hands of finance, is what it is, once you have accepted that things were broken a long time ago, you can open up to the possibility of change.

Then you realise that the fact that you are now realising this, is a sign things ARE changing. That other people have realised this too. In fact, once you have left the mindset of ‘there is no alternative but Labour’, your mind opens to the reality of the situation.

That not only is change possible but it is happening and it is happening without permission of the political press. You don’t have to have conversation kept within those very very silly parameters. Once you accept you cannot change the Labour Party, you realise there has to be another way of changing democracy. Then you realise our democratic institutions are designed so you can change the face of democracy. And once you realise that, you feel very silly ever thinking Labour were a solution and are free to have your own conversation and really look at the big picture and what is wrong with it.

Then you watch other people catch up. Slowly but surely, they catch up. And you realise that the demonstration of that Labour culture desperately trying to hold onto the ability to dictate the parameters of debate, is useful to you. It is demonstrating how that was always done. How democracy was given to finance and kept in those hands. So it doesn’t have to be again.

Then all of a sudden the world looks very different, and you can see that change is not only likely, but it is possible and it is happening and that all you have to do is demand what you want, be the change you want, and really THAT is the kind of change that is on the table when there are no certainties any more. The things we do now, the things we fight for, will define the next century. Once you are past being limited to ‘I’d quite like the Labour Party to turn left’ you can really ponder what is possible, demand it, and achieve it. ”

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway… And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!”” Anne Frank.

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Mhairi Black’s Maiden Speech

This was Mhairi Black’s maiden speech as MP for Paisley.

Democracy is ours. That could have been Douglas Alexander. The Conservatives are supposed to have a slim and fragile majority, instead they have 532 seats of guaranteed compliance with no opposition. That is an MP representing her constituency. That speech is what happens when you ditch the Labour Party.

That is how parliament works, every constituency is supposed to send someone to represent them. Noone says it has to be Labour, or even an established political party. That media culture are in crisis and Labour are imploding, that is an opportunity with an election in five years. With the advantage of geography, time, and a media culture in crisis.

Our democratic institutions are ours, they can’t be taken permanently, even if a rotten media culture encases the front benches at the moment.

Greece

Don’t read a word I have to say about Greece. Go read Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis or even Alex Andreou. What I would say is this. Syriza were the latest evolution in something that has been happening globally for a while. Whatever happens to them now, or happens in Greece, their courage means the neo liberal backlash is spreading. It is on our doorstep it is in our streets, and the fact it isnt recognised by the media cultures who were responsible for projecting austerity out at us, really means little. I didn’t want to add half assed analysis of something you would be better reading elsewhere, but I did want to acknowledge Greece and the week since the Oxi referendum for when I read this blog back in future.

Camilla Batmanghali on Black Single Mothers

I actually think the mothers are hugely responsible, because they have created a culture where they can get rid of the adolescent boy… They can get rid of the male partner, they can survive on their own… Often people think it’s the males who are the culprits, the irresponsible people who actually come along and make these girls pregnant and walk off. And they underestimate the level of rejection and cruelty from the females towards the males… The minute the adolescent boy begins to look slightly like a male and behave like a male, often the mother wants that young male banished from the house. A hate relationship often develops. I really think we underestimate the vulnerabilities of young black men.’

This is while exploiting poverty created by explicit creation of maternal poverty and using ‘therapy’ on kids with no therapeutic needs, designed to usurp the attachment to their parents. Mothers. This was a speech to MPs who would use exploitation of motherhood to deliver austerity. Kids Company, are, always were, and will continue to be a problem. And they are the perfect vignette to demonstrate the problem with celebrity focused policy formation.

Wanted in West Yorks or Lancashire area

I am looking for 12 people who would be willing to train as parental advocates and take on a role assisting mothers involved with Children’s Services, in expressing their needs and wishes regarding their children. This may involve assisting in drafting letters, attending meetings, and supporting mothers, and assisting welfare rights centres in answering queores. It would be unpaid, voluntary and would require attendance at a training course in Burnley, plus attendance at group meetings once every 8 weeks. Own transport would be desirable but not essential.

This would be followed by support from other advocates, and an informal supervision network to discuss cases and problems.

Training likely to take place in the autumn.

Karen Ingala Smith

So yesterdays budget.

Five years ago, equality was rolled back for working class mothers. The combination of institutional and financial transformation hidden under austerity, directly mirrored the pattern of austerity across Europe and rolled back equality for working class mothers. I say mothers, because the word mothers is important. This happened to women and the thing used to do this, was motherhood. The services and benefits that become necessary when you experience gender inequality directly related to motherhood. Mothers are in fact the majority of carers for children and experience inequality when they become parents that men do not. The rhetoric that governed these changes was directly about gender, unpaid labour and motherhood.

This received no comment, no opposition. Labour and the left made sure this was not discussed and the Tories not only did not receive opposition but this was facilitated in silence. The means by which women can survive and stay in communities, should they leave the shelter of a partners income was removed, by increments, the services we need, the shelters, the support, were cuts. The benefits we need to participate in the labour market were cut. Women have been pushed out of work on an astonishing scale. The services for our children were transformed so that child protection is now a frightening frightening thing for mothers who have been pushed to being less able to provide for their children, and adoption is being treated by the government as a way to make up for the erosion of the capacities to care for and protect children, and legislation that requires us to protect our kids from domestic abuse is being used to justify adoptions when we fail to do so. Legal aid cuts mean we run a heavy risk of being mandated by family courts to stay under the control of abusive partners who can use our children to coerce us.

After five years of each budget hitting single mothers more than ANY other group, yesterdays budget was the icing on the cake. A politically savvy chancellor realised the smartest way to sell cutting in work benefits was to make it about discouraging breeding. This is not new and has roots in deeply misogynist rhetoric going back a long way. Last night was a slow realisation ofthe scale of what has been done. A realisation that hasnt finished, as we begin to pore over the finer details of the budget beyond realising we live in a world where you need to ask for decent treatment by HMRC by justifying that your child was a product of rape. This is beyond anything the UK has ever seen.

The construction of economics and politics around a dubious homo economicus, means that right now e need to discuss women, mothers, carers, and the direct links between gender and poverty and austerity and motherhood. For five years we have been unable to discuss motherhood in the context of austerity, the left wont allow it, the only response of feminism to equality being rolled back was a campaign to get a planned banknote to run on time and a woman going to prison. Discussion of the motherhood at the root of this too heteronormative, offensive to feminists of all stripes and so women have been sent backl to the dark ages in silence.

As this was dawning, tweets from Karen Ingala Smith caught my eye. T his was her response to one of the very few mainstream responses to this. The barely existent discussion of the exploitation of MOTHERHOOD and unpaid caring labour to roll back equality.  Of changes that affect mothers. This is a woman whose profile is built on counting the corpses this creates.

Interesting piece by Yvette Cooper purportedly about women and the budget. The word woman appears 7 times.

The words family/parents,/children/kids appear 27 times. Yes, I know women are vastly disproportionately affected by being a parent but I

Don’t think it helps moves to equal parenting by treating woman and parenthood as synonymous.

And it fucks me off that childless women are disregarded. Apologies in advance to women who are mothers who may be pissed off by my tweets.

Apparently she doesnt think its helpful to discuss motherhood. Would much prefer to just count our corpses when we cant leave abuse. Apparently it is disregarding her as a childless woman when someone discusses the impact of an austerity program which uses motherhood as the leverage to roll back equality.

I told her to shut up, because quite frankly I assumed that a) she was joking or b) anyone who could utter such narcissistic self obsessed crap given what was unfolding, needed to be told.

Since then her friends, and it is her friends, her social network, have been abusing me for pointing out the harm that it does when a media figure who makes her living counting our corpses, has only that to say about what happened yesterday.

Abusive, clearly stating it is because they are her friends, apparently I need to be kicked out of feminism because these vacuous women are the gateway through which we must discuss inequality. Apparently the reason I find her disgusting comments offensive and damaging is because I am too stupid to understand the point she was making. I understand the point she was making.

Here is my point. For five years I have watched women’s lives being destroyed and now I am going to see that spread. There will be no discussion of it in the left wing media, because motherhood cannot be discussed. Feminism thinks motherhood is exclusionary, if we describe motherhood we are excluding god knows how many groups and if we point out that the invisibility of the labour of motherhood is at the root of the not only gender inequality andf poverty worldwide, but at the root of how austerity has been implemented it is offensive to those who wish to count our corpses. It’s not helpful for her move towards equal parenting of kids she does not have, for politics to discuss the way motherhood has been used to leverage austerity. It excludes her to discuss changes that don’t affect her and that she doesn’t have to live with. Miss Ingala Smith’s version of feminism is not one where we discuss the relationship of social policy, to our economic system and to economic inequality faultlines like motherhood can be discussed without being deemed unhelpful.

So I will reiterate here. I am not looking to audition to vacuous self obsessed twitter media feminism culture to discuss inequality I face and see. I am not looking for them to police my language and tone and certainly don’t want to be part of the school yard politics that defines that culture. But those tweets were disgusting and demonstrated precisely why it is that we have been hit with impunity to the point where we may beg HMRC for decent treatment if we can prove our CHILDREN were the product of rape, and where that wont be enough to remove us from the ever more vindictive web of social policy institutions that motherhood brings us into the control of. I am not looking to be part of your shallow self obsessed, selfie school of feminism at all.

You want a career counting our corpses Karen, that is fine. There will be plenty. And motherhood is at the root of why most of those women were vulnerable to becoming corpses.

I will not spend the next few days fending off your sycophantic moron friends and certainly will not tolerate the bullshit expressed in those tweets.

Motherhood, austerity

THis was a speech I made to the radical left who would assist in whitewashing the rolling back of equality, at Oxford University in 2010. I think we have seen since what happened to equality while vacuous morons made their living discussing feminism.

Posted by Oxford Womcam on Friday, November 19, 2010
Lisa Ansell: WHILE WE WERE TALKING ABOUT FEMINISM, WHAT HAPPENED TO EQUALITY?This is the transcript of the speech I gave at Oxford University’s Gender and Equality Festival last week. Is long but was speaking for 45 mins.
”Hello. I was really pleased, although quite surprised to be asked to come and speak to you all today. By yesterday at 3pm, I still hadn’t really figured out what I wanted to say.
I’ve considered myself a feminist since I was a teenager. (pause) I think I considered myself a ‘post-feminist’- part of the generation who came after feminism had done it’s job. I thought I lived in an equal society, thankful to women like those who worked at the Dagenham ford plant, those who burned their bras for women’s liberation, and the Suffragettes.  I congratulated myself on understanding words like ‘patriarchy’, and devoured books with competing feminist theories, many of which were written long before I was born- and many of which I didn’t think had that much relevant to the society I lived in. (BREATHE)
Throughout my school career, I was treated as smarter than many of the boys. We weren’t consigned to Home Economics classes(although I enjoyed them infinitely more than woodwork…). I watched Grange Hill and Byker Grove specials, where the right of girls to play football was a no brainer- and plucky 6th formers overcame the attitudes of dinosaurs with a bit of reason and logic.
Equality legislation was implemented before I was born.   I never questioned equality, it just was.
Misogyny something that would die out as my generation took their places in society.  The first generation not to have to fight for their right not to be held back by the absence of a penis.
(PAUSE)
I developed a nuanced understanding of how the media treated women’s sexuality, of the dangers of trying to live up to the images of impossible perfection.
As I entered adulthood my perspective didn’t really shift.  I was asked at a job interview whether I intended to have children, and I was more outraged by the assumption that I would have a child, than I was at the implications of that question for the women who already had.
In my early twenties, I competed in the workplace and was treated as equal. I earned more than my boyfriend, , I was suitably outraged when I was called ‘sweetheart’. I inwardly seethed, when I was introduced to a client and he shook the admin boys hand and asked me to get his coffee. I seethed at the betrayal of the women who worked around me. Women who I saw as getting preferential treatment because they were mothers.  Who worked less hours than I did and demanded to be given preference for holiday entitlement- while expecting it to be ok to disappear at a moments notice.
I thought I was enjoying the fruits of the fight for equality. I watched Sex and the City, and I consumed, and through my power to buy- I showed that I was equal. I could afford my own designer shoes(with the help of my flexible friend), I could sleep with who I liked, and my pay kept pace with my male colleagues.
I knew the gender pay gap hadn’t really closed, but assumed it was naturally going to do so.
I stand here today, knowing it was a lie.
When I did my social work training, I was told that social work was a profession that was carried out by women, for women. I told my tutor I thought this was bollocks, and that it was attitudes like that that held women back.
Poverty was not related to gender, but class and the neo liberal consensus that had been in place since I was born. Poverty was the result of choices. By increasing girls aspirations to education, we would encourage them to make different choices.  I had been in care, surely I was evidence that this was true?
(Pause)
My view was challenged when I started work, and the heads of many of the households I worked with were women- women in poverty, and women suffering the effect of generations of social exclusion.
 I saw with my own eyes that violence against women was endemic. I studied the patterns of mental illness amongst women and saw that not only was there a distinct gender split- but that the majority of women’s mental illnesses are the result of circumstances. A response to abuse and poverty.
 The only job I ever did with a male client group, was a drop in centre for men who had sex with men, but didn’t identify as gay. Encouraging men who were having unprotected sex, cottaging- not to put their wives at risk.  I saw these women as mothers, but never considered the role motherhood played in their poverty, beyond platitudes about empowerment- and quick fix attempts to provide childcare solutions.
Still believing I was a feminist. I saw my clients simultaneously as victims of and culpable in their own abuse. When women ‘failed to protect their children’ against abusive spouses, I supported the removal of those children- confident that this was right because the rights of the child had to come first.
I saw that gender was a factor, but still saw myself as separate from these women. My choices were different. I was a professional, and I was financially secure because I chose to be. I knew that not all men were abusers, because all the men in my life are great.-therefore this was about choices. I knew that most of these were problems of poverty- and while gender and motherhood exacerbated situations- motherhood was a choice. One that should be discouraged by those who clearly weren’t ready.
In a society where the ability to take part, depends on the ability to spend and buy- I knew that the so called ‘underclass’-was merely result of entire communities, living without the ability to participate. This all seemed fairly straightforward. Tackle social exclusion, show people they had choices- give control back.
Throughout my career in the public sector, most of my colleagues were women. (Not managers). My salary was low, but I felt that was to be expected because I was only a couple of years into the job. It would rise with progression which seemed fair. Besides this was public money. And when it is public money, then the wages are crap.
I ignored the fact that most of my female friends were working in the public sector- in the ‘female’ professions. Teachers, nurses, social workers, in the voluntary sector.  Our offices filled with part time administrators earning less than we were. None of the local authorities I worked for have been a living wage employer. Not one of the local authorities I worked for guaranteed to pay the mainly female workforce at the bottom two tiers- £7.50 per hour.
When I went on strike to protect the pension rights of the lowest paid women in my organisation, I was doing it for them. I was making a sacrifice for those less fortunate. Good on me.
It was only when I had a child that I truly realised how far we had to go, and how little this had to do with choice.
I had a plan when I was pregnant. I was going back to work when my daughter was 3 months old, I was going to work 4 days a week. IT was going to be great. I had well organised systems of childcare, could afford it- I was going to be the woman who had it all.
Me and my ex had an agreement drawn up, where we would share custody if anything happened between us. I respected his rights as a father, he respected me as a mother- was all going to be great. I worked in the ‘female profession’ surely here I would expect no discrimination- I had had health and safety assessments when I was pregnant, a room to express in, and flexible working was the norm. I forgot the way I had viewed those who worked part time, and quite honestly cushioned by a two salary household, I had forgotten what it was like to be skint- and had no reason to ever expect that I would be.
With an education, a profession, a supportive husband, and complete control over the choices I made.
The problem with this plan, is the same problem with the baby books I bought to help me make those plans- my daughter didn’t really read them- and she didn’t really get the plan. None the books I read about feminism told me much about what would happen when I had a baby.
Section 2
Take a sip of water
The thing we forget to discuss when we are talking about equality, and the choices women make- is that once you become a mother- your choices disappear immediately.
The choice of when to sleep, and when to eat is gone. I remember when my daughter was about a week old, and I realised the major design flaw in babies is that there isn’t an off switch.
Rachel didn’t really do the sleeping thing- and refused to take a bottle at nursery- she demanded all her feeds during the night. For a time my colleagues understood I was tired, and when I fell asleep on the toilet at work- my colleagues very kindly put a blanket over my knees and left me there to doze.
Being a mother is a 24/7 job. Your child exists 24 hours a day, and when your child is young they often need attention for the majority of those hours. I relished the time I was at work, and used to schedule meetings that didn’t exist- so that I could read the paper in a cafe, and drink a cup of tea to the bottom. When my friend gave me a thermal cup as a ‘new baby’ present- I thought it was odd. By the time my daughter was 3 months old, the dishwasher had worn it out- and I needed to replace it. Drinking an entire cup of tea, is far too time consuming to happen on a daily basis.
We expect new mothers to be tired, but the novelty of recognising that wears off after weeks. After 9 months my employers patience was beginning to wear thin- as my memory lapsed, and my body struggled to adjust to this new 24/7 routine,
 I was expected to be back to the person I was before she was born- and the same scathing looks that I had given to women who had to disappear because n ursery closed at 6 were directed at me. I wasn’t working for financial gain, because the money I brought in was poured straight into the nursery who cared for my daughter so I could work.
Dropping my hours, would have worked- had it not been for the fact that my caseload didn’t drop as well. No recognition that a half day meeting was a larger percentage of my working week, than when I was full time- and when I couldn’t stay on emergency calls till 11pm, while never stated explicitly- I was seen as shirking.
The standard retort to objecting to this is ‘why should women expect society to take responsibility for their choice to have a child’. Why should society have to change to suit that?
What would happen if an entire generation of women got themselves sterilised?
I was the first of my friends to have children- but as they followed suit- we found with dismay we we repeated the same conversations we had heard our mothers and aunts have as we grew up.
The three months I spent at home when my daughter was born, established me as the primary caregiver- With that came responsibility for being a domestic goddess. A title I am not sure I will ever live up to…
The essays by Pat Mainardi and Simone De Beauvoir on the politics of housework- which I had thought would be irrelevant to my post feminist life- would have been brought into sharp relief if I had had time to read them.
If I was coming home late- taxi drivers felt free to tell me I should be at home with my child, not trekking around Yorkshire at 11pm. Stay at home mums at playgroup felt free to express shock, that I didn’t take my daughter to 4-5 baby massage clubs a week- the forums I used to get breastfeeding advice- raged with debates about whether women should work at all. Daily Fail headlines screamed at me with the damage I was doing to my child.  Unsolicited advice and judgement warranted because I was doing this massively important job of raising a child, at the same time no recognition the impact that doing that job had on my life or my ability do other things.
And all of a sudden I was failing at work, and home, and had never been as tired, or tried so hard.
In order to balance work and motherhood, I was forced, like most women, to drop my hours- and thus my earnings potential dropped. And I found out why the gender pay gap will never close.
The illusion of equality I had experience was because I had time to work long hours, I had the freedom to go away on a moments notice- and I was able to compete in a system which was designed solely for those whose only role was to earn money. Before I made the ‘choice’ to have a child- I was rewarded for not making that choice.
The equality I imagined existed- was not equality. Once you have a child you have the right to compete in a system which only changes enough to allow you to take part if an employer was generous enough to allow you to manage my working pattern and recognise the other responsibilities I had. Only then if you can afford childcare, and only then if you have the support networks which will pick up the slack if you fall. The cost of this childcare, will take most of your earnings- although I didn’t realise what this meant until I didn’t have a husband’s salary to cushion me.
I was 26 when I had my daughter- and all of sudden I looked at the women I worked with, who had  become mothers when they were barely out of childhood- and I truly understood what that had meant for them- and how little few of the consequences they chose.
 Motherhood had limited my choices at 26, theirs had been capped in their teens.  The women who the media will tell you had babies to get council houses, who had done this 24/7 job without the luxury of the income I had, without the benefit of the education I had, and without the protection of that comes from strong friends and family network.
None of the things I have talked about are new. Women are not a minority group, and although I am no biology expert – I think we have been the ones to bear the children since time began. None of my circumstances were unique. I won’t bore you by continuing to talk about the year after my daughter was born. You don’t need to hear it from me. You can go back as far as Mary Wollstencraft- she was writing the same things in the 18th century.
NO matter where you are in the world- no matter which period of history you go to Suppression of women’s sexuality is toxic- but motherhood has been the most tool with which women are kept powerless and in poverty.
While I was devouring feminist literature, and enjoying the fruits of equality- feeling pity for those who didn’t understand you just had to make different choices- I hadn’t realised that this wasn’t about choices they made.  Until we recognise motherhood as what it is, and the work it entails- we will never have equality.
 I scoffed at the demands of Women’s Libbers that motherhood to be recognised and valued- and laughed at the idea they expected it to be paid. Don’t you just hate when you find you are wrong.
Section 3
If I thought that becoming a mother was difficult, I was completely unprepared for what happened when I left my husband.  And I am guessing that the articles I wrote about the effect of the budget on me, are why I am here. So if you have managed to stay with me this long= I will explain.
When I left I assumed that as I was working, I would be able to support my daughter. I was grateful that her father still involved in her care- and respected that in order to do this he also had to run a home on one salary- and like many couples nowadays our separation was amicable
I was stunned to find how difficult it would be. I increased my hours, and with my salary, housing benefit, and tax credits- I received  £1600 per month to live on. After I had paid £500 childcare, £500 rent, utilities, student loan, and a credit card payment- I was left with £100 for food and clothes.  The benefits I received, enabled me to work, but overall the net cost to the state of me working was the same as the cost to the state of me staying at home. And there was absolutely no difference in income. I understood this to mean that the state recognised the impact motherhood had on my life, and made an attempt to redress that.  The sense of shame our society instills in those who need state support, ensured that I did not complain.
The Coalition will tell you about the dangers of living with a deficit- well I am all to familiar with the effect of having to make numbers add up that don’t- and I can tell you it is a time consuming, shaming, exhausting excercise- running the gauntlet of accumulating arrears and spending hours a week negotiating with creditors.
When your children are pre-school age- whether you are married or not- you work for the sake of working-not for financial gain- and the challenges of motherhood that I have already talked about do not go away.
Single parents are overrepresented on housing benefit claim lists- for very simple reasons. They earn less. Much less. The effect of motherhood on your earnings potential. Especially when you have young children is recorded everywhere. It is common across ALL sectors- it is the same for women with partners, and for women on their own.  Children do not have this effect on men’s earning potential. Not on the same scale, and not even when they are single., (Anecdote about James at job interview)
Single parents are more likely to live in rented accommodation-But the key thing- the one thing that the Centre for Social Justice deliberately omit from ALL the research they have been providing to Ian Duncan Smith- childcare. If you are paying £500 per month per child, you would need to earn way ABOVE the national average to be able to survive without state support. Not just poor women. Not just people conditioned by welfare dependency- it is basic maths. If you are paying for childcare you need to earn more and are less likely to actually do so.
Housing benefit, contrary to what the coalition government would like you to believe is not, and never has been an unemployment benefit. It is calculated to ensure that when you have paid your rent, and your childcare you should have the equivalent of income support rates to live on. Plus £15 per week. It is calculated according to the median rent in your local area. In my area the average rent is £500 per month. Local Housing Allowance is £400 per month. It is not possible to live in a large house that you don’t need- because any extra bedrooms result in a deduction of the amount payable. It isn’t possible to live in the nicest houses in the area- because only 1 out of 10 landlords will accept housing benefit. Your chances of passing the standard credit check that comes with a tenancy application- very small if you are living on the kind of money that requires housing benefit.
Out of that benefit level income, approximately £150 per week- I paid the £100 difference. No matter how much, or how little I brought in it was not possible for me to increase my income.  In order to not need housing benefit, I would have had to earn £22000 per year, net.  That would be over £25000 a year gross.
In June, I watched George Osborne completely remove the link between working and supporting your child, and justify it by describing those who use housing benefit as scroungers, and and ‘incentivising marriage’. When you have women working for absolutely no financial gain for months and years on end- the one thing that that does not indicate is a culture of welfare dependency.
I have read every word of the Spending Review, and I have read every word of the budget. As part of a social policy designed to incentivise marriage, and tackle ‘worklessness’- the coalition have ensured that the ONLY way out of poverty that remains for mothers with young children is a romantic relationship. We are now expected to fuck our way out of poverty.
The budget and the spending review were not just an attempt to cut the deficit. They have targetted single parents, the majority of whom are women- at EVERY income level- as part of a stated aim of incentivise marriage, and have ensured that no matter what you do, unless you are getting a substantial amount of maintenance or find a new relationship you will never get out of poverty.
A single women with one child who doesn’t work-will live on approximately £127 per week Income support, tax credits. The average £100 difference between rent and housing benefit has to be found from this. The change to housing benefit means that women in my area will have to find on average an extra £60 per month. The change applies to LOCAL areas- so moving will not change it.
If they manage to survive on this amount of money until their children hit 5, they will be forced onto jobseekers allowance- A benefit with complex conditions and little chance of maintaining a claim without interruption for more than 3 months-they will lose another 10% of their housing benefit. They will also be forced to do one months unpaid FULL TIME labour to justify their benefits. To get them in the habit of getting up in the morning- like you need the jobcentre to teach you that when you have children?
Tax credits have been cut. Research by the Centre for Social Justice seeking to identify a couples penalty in the benefits system, have deliberately omitted the cost of childcare from research-and assessing only the net state support received by single parents- cut childcare allowances in tax credits- to achieve this,. The income that I described to you as a social worker- would have had an extra £1800 per year taken out of it.
If you managed to reach the holy grail of earning the £22k a year you would need not to need housing benefit- you would find your tax credits STOPPED – even if you were earning £25 ka year, and paying £12k a year for childcare(which is not unreasonable if you have more than child)- ALL state support stops= regardless of how many children
If by some miracle, you have a child and you are on your own-  you manage to earn £44k a year- your child benefit will stop because you are one of the richest women in the country. Regardless of having to run a household, regardless of paying childcare- regardless of the cost of having children.
The tax credits cap does not only affect single women. For women who are still married, who pay childcare – if their husbands earn more than £15-25k a year- are finding they have to question whether it is selfish to return to work- with that return guaranteeing their family will be worse off.  Retaining economic independence now something that can only be achieved at the expense of your children. This budget and spending review has pushed women back to the home, removed their jobs, and is dependent on them stepping forward to do those jobs for free- while being castigated for doing so.
The only difference between a single parent and a married parent is a husband. And this government are VERY keen women have a husband. When I asked Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP about this- her only response has been ‘fathers should pay for their children’.
Questions about how they have obtained social policy which shows women being financially dependent on men, is preferable to women working have met with silence.
Economic liberalism, with ‘choice’ reserved only to those earning, ignores that it is the state support which gave women choices. It is state support which was designed to bridge the inadequacies of our market economy. I don’t see any moves to force those things to change.
The main beneficiaries of the welfare state, were not jobless men- but women whose contribution in terms of caring for their children, and their relatives- had never been measured- had no financial value- and the so called ‘dependence’ that the coalition talk about is the means by which we, the people, elected to use our taxes- to create a safety net which allowed us to move towards some kind of equality.
Removing the safety net that ensures that a period caring for your child or relatives is not a path to helplessness and dependence on state help- and replacing it with charity to be ministered to helpless victims- is not increasing people’s choices.
It is the benefits that allow women to continue to work, to stay in their homes and communities- when the market economy fails them and traps them.  It is benefits that mean women don’t starve when they look after their ill relatives. Poverty is the trap. Not benefits. We know that women act as shock absorbers of poverty within families, we know that when it comes down to choosing to feed your child or yourself that most women feed their child. We know the pressure of of living like this breaks women, physically and mentally.
Nick Clegg talked about a ‘fairness’ premium- where he seemed familiar with the effects of poverty- alongside policies which throw hundreds and thousands of women into destitution, away from their jobs, away from their communities and to areas with no routes out of poverty remaining- he is introducing childcare for two year olds. Not to assist mothers in retaining their economic independence, but to lift children out of the poverty his government  is creating for a few hours a week so they can have someone else raise their aspirations- apparently poor mothers less words to their children, than those from the nice middle class homes with a husbands salary. Our children are to be protected from us, and the poverty we are ‘choosing’.
Still, I suppose sending your child being lifted out of your home for a few hours, gives you a chance to ring debt collectors.
If I had been asked to speak to you 6 months ago, I would have spoke in much gentler terms about how far we have to go. About the need to recognise and value motherhood- but in things have now changed.
The choice of ‘marriage’ or poverty, may fit with the 19th century economic liberalism espoused by the coalition government- but that is not any kind of a choice in a 21st century society with any pretense at equality.
This is not an attack on single parents. This is not an attack on welfare.
This is an attack on the hardfought changes to traditional gender roles that have made our society better.
It is an attack on ALL women, whether they choose to have children or notwhether they are married or not. Whether they are working or not. It is an attack on our children. It is an attack on all the fathers that have fought to play a greater role in their childrens lives, and it is an attack which enshrines in social policy that a woman’s place is in the home, dependent on a man- and that men should be tied to being the sole breadwinner.
It is an attack which hopes, that the mainly female jobs which are cut from our public service don’t show up on unemployment figures- as they retreat back to the home. And an attack which depends on those jobs being covered for free by the very women punished by this toxic economic agenda.
It is a dangerous attack- which means that right now, women I know are approaching men who beat and abused them- because they know the alternative is losing their homes and their jobs- and being pushed away from their communities for good. It is an attack which is leading to women having to consider whether they can continue to care for their children- and leading several of my friends to consider the option of giving up their homes and move back in with parents. Those who are lucky enough to have parents to move back in with.
It is an attack justified by rhetoric that ensures that at least twice a week, my daughter is described as a mistake, or I am told I should have kept my legs shut.
It is an attack which portrays any women who leaves her partner as a slut, and a scrounger. It is an attack made by a government who know fine well the effect of these policies.
Keeping financial control of your partner is a cornerstone of most abusive relations- and the government with their rhetoric of ‘choice’- have just handed control of mothers to their partners- and left them with no alternative but to stay-whether it is the right thing or not. The Big Society is one without women who are independent from men-and one where those are- are to pitied and punished.
I watched the housing benefit debate in the House of Commons last night, and even though I have heard Yvette Cooper talk about these issues- heard nothing in that debate about the implications for equality. We now live in a society where mothers poverty is just deserts for having sex, and children’s poverty is something to blame the mothers for.
I spent time reading through all three parties manifestos, and policy announcements- and there is little discernible difference and little political appetite to acknowledge the effects this budget. All parties are engaged in discussions around deserving and undeserving poor-and all intended to take the biggest chunk from welfare budgets. None have recognised the unpaid invisible work, which allows the rest of our economy and society to function.
It has become clear that this is not a fight which will be fought in the House of Commons.
If an employer used my ‘reproductive status’ to discriminate, I would have legal redress- because it is government= no such redress exists. Legal aid being slashed has ensured that the Fawcett Society’s legal challenge is likely to stand in isolation, and rhetoric of choice shuts down those who try to defend themselves from unfair accusations of moral deficiency.
 It is time now to stop looking at feminism in the abstract. The academic debates, and subtley different ideologies are irrelevant. Using language that others do not understand is not going to help address the very real assult on women which is happening. This is not just a declaration of class warfare.
We now need to address why we didn’t win equality, how we were so easily convinced we had, and to look at how we make sure the next time we win.
This does not require academic debate= the effects of this budget are real- and are happening now. I was the first generation to believe I would never have to fight for my gender- and I know see that the battle feminism never won- the battle to have motherhood recognised, is the thing that will mean my daughter will never experience the illusion of equality I did.
Women are going to start losing their homes, and their families, and their jobs- and have their futures and those of their children shut down. You probably will not see these women on the top of Milbank throwing fire extinguishers. Not when it can take weeks to sort childcare for a dentist appointment. Most of them will be too busy trying to survive.
These women are not separate from you, and the attacks on them are attacks on you- even if you are currently earning, or have a family who will ensure that you will never face these choices.
We, as a society need to stand up adn say that an attack on mothers and carers is an attack on all of us. Even if those mothers and carers do not recognise the value of feminism. We need to demand that equality is retained. Use whatever we have. Our voices, our jobs, our businesses= to fight to ensure that the equality we thought we took for granted is protected- and stand up for those women whose powerlessness is being exploited to attack equality as a whole.
But it is not enough to protest. Direct Action is needed, but not just the direct action of sabotage- the direct action of stepping into ensure that women whose only crime was having a child- do not fall by the wayside. Big Society is a crock of shit designed to mask rolling back the welfare state- and in doing rolling back equality.
For years I talked about feminism, and failed to notice the truth. Far from being the first generation NOT to have to fight for equality- WE have to fight for equality, harder than any generation have fought before- because now we have to fight the pretense that the battle was won.   And we have to fight it now.”

Why Social Work Academics need to embrace Economics.

We are in the middle of this HUGE debt related crisis, that hasn’t finished by a long shot. This crisis has been used to justify increased financialisation of our economy, and is leading to a situation where child protection is being used wholly inappropriately, while there is deliberate and overt abuse of the control obtained through social policy provision.   The profession was thrown under a bus in 2009,  the attempt to reshape social work as something that should be oblivious to structural inequality have been astonishing.

Creation of maternal poverty is the hairtrigger response to financial instability that is an inevitability in this system, while child protection is weaponised and the troubled families program threatens to merge social work with a punitive benefit system that is directly creating instability in families as a stated aim of policy.

Economics is in the process of learning that we have to understand the economy in a broader sense than the money supply.  In order to broaden their understanding of the impact of debt on stability, economists have to move to looking at the economy beyond the money supply. To understand how stability creates instability one has to understand the complacence that develops in our increased appetite for debt based growth in primary institutions of finance, media and politics. How those institutions relate to the political economy they shape.

Economics is in the process of doing this and so many institutes are establishing centres to examine inequality. The thing these institutes centre round is the need for multi disciplinary research. What they deserately need is an understanding of how disciplines function within institutions and how those institutions (dont) work together.  Explain why the multi agency working regulations are now bigger than ALL the Harry Potter books stood together(probably). The research and work you do, and have done, is becoming very valuable to economists. Even if politicians want it thrown under a bus.

The crisis being created are probably unavoidable but now and indicate a wider unravelling of the post war settlement. But that post war settlement was a bit crap. This may be the time t discuss inequality between institutions and how and why social work was transformed in the way it was and why we didn’t really get that those services were needed for most of the 20th century. The post Seebohm social work experiment is probably not going to survive what is happening intact. Not with child abuse scandals indicating how inequality between institutions was exploited and how inequality in our society meant that didnt seem to be much more than a pecadillo some people had. Our understanding of inequality, and the relationship of inequality with power and abuse and of power, and how that is mapped out in safeguarding duties has evolved substantially.

There is little likelihood of a political solution to this crisis until economics has a new centre position around which to orbit, and it would seem that austerity may seem like the last kicking. But it is just one aspect of a multi faceted crisis and you know fine well why that knowledge is invisible to policy. What you can learn from how austerity was delivered sold and implemented, is how a financial crisis is turned into a social and political crisis and how inequality faultlines were exploited in that process. How instability is created as a result of instability. You can demonstrate the pattern of institutional transformation austerity has accelerated and its impact on inequality. It’s real impact. You dont have to discuss party lines cos you know this is subject to political consensus and predates austerity. Economists needs to know how the institutions they shape function and how crisis have been generated by their blind spots.

You probably understand by now that the chance to change the narratives on these crisis was never going to be taken. Perhaps now its time for you to embrace economics and be ready to contextualise their evident blind spots with what you know. The end of one political and economic settlment is the birth of another, perhaps its time to start stitching together the narrative of our first forays into protecting children, learn from the flaws in the ongoing failure of those institutions and tell economics why it was inevitable that those institutions would be reduced to what they have been. You already know how to deal with crisis and how to learn from crisis. Economics is reaching out to other disciplines, you are required to show why they need to understand how those disciplines work together in they political economy they populate. To reflect on what the current crisis reveals. Its probably best to learn from how austerity is being sold as we approach the financial crisis we have increased the risk of, rather than starting from scratch afterwards…

Why Kids Company IS a problem

When you work with anyone vulnerable (I mean there is a power imbalance between them and you which you could abuse just by not reflecting on the impact of what you do), you start with the principle of ‘do no harm’. The assumption your intervention is harmful in of itself, unless the benefit it could have, outweighs that harm significantly.

I have had problems with Kids Company, their model, their charistmatic ‘leader'(please note the management speak), and the way they use media and politics, for a while. These were not concerns about the incidents with staff, the reports coming out of Kids Company, or the reports in and out of the media, of the actual relationship of vulnerable kids to Kids Company. I was not as concerned about financial irregularity. Not of itself.

The PR descriptions of the world they were dealing with teemed quite odd, even in todays climate. fanciful in fact. Then I looked at the model they use. ‘Show them a bit of love and you can fix structural inequality’. Basically, it seemed to be the idea that the workers at a charity would seek to form an attachment to the child, which would in practice be so overwhelming as to undermine existing attachments and create a very serious risk for a child. This was not an approach to be carefully used if the circumstances justified it and the benefit outweighed the possible harm. but as an approach at a drop in kids were pretty much bribed to go to. Already made vulnerable to predators by the structural inequality that meant bribing kids to show up for the cameras would be a successful strategy for an organisation largely about getting huge sums of money, and a media profile selling nonsense about childhood and poverty as fuel for ambitions.

It is not beneficial to children to deliberately form attachments of that strength, in that context, unless there is a therapeutic need.

Child poverty is not a badge that you can apply to deflect criticism on anything you like. It is not decoration for your ambitions. Nor are those children.

When criticism from a donor is met with accusations about lack of mental capacity and yet that does not spur a return of the donation, then there is a problem. It is certainly a problem in a setting working with vulnerable people because issues like capacity are at the core of how you reflect on the impact of what you do on vulnerable people.

The charismatic leader of Kids Company is right, the services we have to protect children are at the moment are broken. The consequences are complex, and awful. Child protection is being used wholly inappropriately and a lack of insight into reality within Westminster is creating serious crisis which will become politically impossible at some point. But they were steadily broken over a long time while charities like Kids Company were the main beneficiaries. They are being broken by austerity and we should have  a system where the children who caught up in this mess are worth more than being a badge to deflect criticism of whatever you like.

The problem with the charity model, which we learned before World War 2 changed things, is that charity is inevitably about the dooer, and issues like the potential to cause harm get lost in the need for a media profile and future revenue.

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