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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Kate Belgrave asks: 'Why is middle class feminism so disinterested in women hit by austerity?'

Swheatie of the KUWG gives a response that is more one of, "Are people afraid to stand up in defence of villified minorities while exploiters seek to divide us?"

Kate Belgrave, friend of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group, asks the above very interesting question, comparing
  1. Minimal media coverage of the plight of single mothers in a substandard E15 [Newham] hostel who are threatened with benefit-cap-induced migration from their London support networks to the isolation of Hastings where they would not be welcomed and would be denied their existing neighbourhood supports; with
  2. The extraordinary coverage and endless twitter broadcasting gifted to middle-class feminism’s campaign to have Jane Austen's face printed on a banknote – banknotes that low-income women in Jasmin's situation struggled mightily to get their hands on from one day to the next.
Who is really jumping the housing queues?
While I am a man and not a woman, I believe it may be inappropriate for me to comment on middle-class feminist values. And one of the uncertainties for me is whether there has been any real rise in the UK numbers of homeless single parents since the days over 20 years ago that the vicious right wing Tory Secretary of State for Social Security included
young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing queue
in his parody of the Lord High Executioner's 'little list' from Gilbert & Sullivan's 'The Mikado'. But I note that for all of the perniciousness of the tabloid press attacks that have gone on since the 1990's re 'teenage mums taking up housing places', official statistics quoted in a single-parent charity's factsheet on demography of single parents state that "less than 2% of single parents are teenagers."

This fact is highlighted by #2 position on the relevant Gingerbread — oneparent families — factsheet.

I also note from memory that at the time that I was a spokesperson on disability in 2008 I helped draw attention to how a single parent in her 40's with two daughters, one of whom was disabled, were treated in the housing system, Gingerbread factsheet was referring to 1 in 7 single parent families having at least one family member who was disabled. Lack of support for family members increased the pressures on struggling families that lead to family break-up, it was argued.

The latest version of that figure on the Gingerbread website states, using DWP figures:
Where single parents are not working, this is often because there are health issues that make work difficult: 33 per cent of unemployed single parents have a disability or longstanding illness (25) and 34 per cent have a child with a disability (26)
One might think as the DWP are recording such data, that they recognise that single parents with disabled children have real difficulties and that they should therefore get support rather than bullying. The reality from the experience of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group's listening to claimants appears to be that Peter Lilley's 'little list' of people whose statutory supports must be axed has been brought forward and extended. Being in that 34% does not exclude single parents with a disabled child from being threatened with a sanction for 'not trying hard enough' to follow the jobcentre's prescribed poverty cure, even while the single parent concerned is doing all they can.

I fear that such use of statistics risks a 'divide and rule' situation by which charities such as Gingerbread consider teenage parents as not part of their core business and therefore not such a high priority, while the reality is that all disadvantaged groups are being regarded as of such little importance that, in Peter Lilley's parody words, "they will not be missed."

And of course, we should remember the implications of Pastor Martin Niemöller's famous text about German intellectuals not standing out against the persecution of various groupings. If we are motivated by the disinterest that manifests itself as, "That is not our core concern," and fail to challenge the hidden agendas of those who spread malicious smear stories, we really do risk leaving the spoils of a malicious campaign of villification and spitefulness to the perpetrators.

Similarly, regarding middle class values, American Educational Psychologist Dr Haim G Ginott challenged a group of parents at a parenting workshop to consider, "What have we accomplished if we have raised children to be 'well-adjusted' and top of their class, if those children go on to use their intellect to exploit and abuse others. The Nazis did that," he argued. (Source: Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish's book 'Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family', read and absorbed about 20 years ago. The exact wording may be slightly wrong, but not the gist of what Ginott is reported to have said is still valid.)

And Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group recently followed up receiving a £20 street donation cued by "Derail 'Slash & Burn' of 'Austerity'" placard message in support of tube workers whose jobs are threatened by ticket office closures, by channeling £10 to the RMT union, and a £10 solidarity donation to funds of the E15 Mums campaign.
Now, it's not just burning crops that raises our cost of living

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