Category Archives: women

#WASPI success at Suffolk County Council

Caroline Page seconding the #WASPI motion, asking for fair transitional state pension arrangements for 50’s born women

As LibDem Green and Independent Spokesperson for Women, I was proud to second the important cross-party motion at Suffolk County Council last week which asked government to support fair transitional pension arrangements for 1950’s born women (the so-called #WASPI* women) See speech on YouTube here:

Women born in the 50s have lived throughout a period when the Equality Act didn’t result in equality of pay, opportunity, or expectation. They have been expected to make career breaks, and work part-time to bring up children and care for dependent relatives with all the subsequent difficulties of returning to equivalent work.

In 2017 a woman’s retirement income is on average 45% less than a man’s.

For years successive governments failed to warn women so they could better plan for their futures. But in the circumstances many women would have needed to have made a lifetime of different choices to make adequate preparation for this pension change.

The perfect storm is that WASPI women are now also 3 times more likely than their younger peers to be divorced and suffer financial pressure.

The motion, proposed by Labour stated: “This Council believes the Government should make fair and transitional state pension arrangements for the 34,000 Suffolk women born in the 1950’s, who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age with lack of appropriate notification. This Council requests the Interim Chief Executive write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling on the government to reconsider transitional arrangements for women.”  It was passed unanimously by Suffolk County Council with no abstentions. 

  *WASPI = Women Against State Pension Inequality

My speech:         I’m proud to support the efforts of the WASPI campaign, and applaud them on their resilience and determination to make their case heard. As a State Pension Age affected woman  myself born in the 1950s, as LibDem Green and Independent Spokesperson for Women,  and as a full-time carer, I’m all too aware of the problems.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Retirement age changes take place in the name of equality – and everyone should want that!

But the devil’s in the detail. Women born in the 50s have lived throughout a period when the Equality Act didn’t result in equality of pay, opportunity, or expectation. Women have been expected to make career breaks, and work part-time to bring up children and care for dependent relatives with all subsequent difficulties of returning to equivalent work.

And lack of occupational pension, and breaks in state pension contributions has inevitable consequences. No surprise that  in 2017 a woman’s retirement income is on average 45% less than a man’s – the differential £1000 GREATER than it was a year before. Shocking.

For years successive governments failed to warn women  so they could better plan  for their futures.

But -lets be honest – many women would need to have made a lifetime of different choices to make adequate preparation for this

By the time women are my age, 50% are already unpaid family carers: odds men don’t achieve until they are 75. And with life expectancy rising, the numbers needing care have snowballed. You don’t start out in life expecting to be a family carer.  It comes up behind you and blackjacks you and conflicts with your capacity to earn..

So,  change in retirement age impacts particularly on a whole generation of women that state and family have relied on to give up careers and occupational pensions to care unpaid for others.

And you can see how families, women, everyone might decide it better for family finances that the woman gave up work to care because she’d get the earlier state pension.

The perfect storm is that WASPI women are now also more likely than their younger peers to be divorced and suffer financial pressure. One in 3 are divorced – three times as many as those born 25 years later.

Says a 62 year old constituent ,“Make preparations? Many of my lifechoices were out of my hands but I still have to face the consequences “.  Her husband didn’t want her to work after they married, but then left her – with minimal support and young children. She’d lost her place in the job market she trained in and the only work she could do was cleaning. Ill paid, laborious – but she could fit it around childcare. She’s been a cleaner for 17 years now,  and expected to retire 2 years ago.

But she now has another 4 years to go.

She says “I’m worn out. You can’t manage such physical work till you’re 66. I have no choice.”

There are many such women facing years without a fair level of support, purely because the government failed in its duty to keep them fully informed – and failed to consider the constraints which an entire generation’s practices imposed upon so-called “life choices”.

I call upon all councillors of all parties to stand behind these women and support this motion

I’m Speaking up for Women

Caroline Page, County Councillor, Woodbridge; LibDem Green & Independent Spokesperson for Women

When the Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group was formed, I was appointed Group Spokesperson for Women. The first and only Group in this county to have one.

Interesting, because there IS no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.

So why am I spokesperson? Because there is no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.

Suffolk is not only a county in which it isn’t good to be a girl or woman, Suffolk is a county that is not even aware of the fact.

When I checked charity Plan  International UK’s statistics last September and discovered Suffolk was a poor place to be a girl (in terms of important measures: Child Poverty, NEET, Teenage pregnancy, GCSEs and Life Expectancy) both Suffolk’s County Cabinet and officers were lost for words. It clearly was not the kind of info they collected. They have yet to get back to me as to what they will do about it.

Again, when I broke the news that 1 in 2 of 59 year old women were unpaid family carers (odds not shared by men until they were 75) this came as a complete surprise to those who represent the people of Suffolk. Despite the fact this will have a huge impact on working-aged women’s careers, incomes, life outcomes, and PENSIONS – and that too much of what is heard about  #WASPI debate has been along the lines of “Diddums. Why shouldn’t you women expect to be equal to us men?” (Men, I ask you, why isn’t 1 in 2 of you a family carer at 59? Is it because you want a decent pension pot? Yes? Well,  I have every sympathy. I want one too!).

Instead of addressing the inequity, the men who run Suffolk’s finances don’t notice it and underspend on the family carers’ budget to fund its social care programme…

When  a former Mayor of Woodbridge was asked why there were no blue plaques to women in Woodbridge, he replied: “Maybe women have never done anything.” Really and truly. This in Woodbridge which is represented by a woman MP, a woman County Councillor, and currently, a woman Mayor.

Seems that Suffolk – nursery of those indomitable seekers after equality, Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett – is in need of a reminder that equality is still a long way off.

So how do we create equality?

– Part of this is making an end of female objectification. A  good start would be universal application of my ‘Eric Pickles test ©“.  It goes: Would that headline/ad/statement make sense if it was about Eric Pickles? That photo of a “wardrobe malfunction”? that clickbait where someone “shows off their new, toned beach body”? that fitness ad about “getting a pert and peachy derriere”? Does it sound silly with Eric there? Yes? Well then, leave women out of it too, thank you very much. It encourages disrespect and disregard.

– Part of it is pointing out inequality in any arena. I have spent several years tweeting Radio4’s Today programme about their inability to distinguish between sport and men’s sport. With final success, but only after years when for weeks on end the only female name mentioned in their sports reports was the mare running in the 3.40 at Lingfield.

Unimportant? Only if you’re wanting to sustain a narrative of male importance and female inconsequence. I’m afraid it was constant nagging that did the trick with Radio 4. Sloppy journos who just want to talk to their chums shouldn’t be allowed to set the agenda. Because, the agenda set , suddenly the narrative is,  “nobody’s interested” (just like a playground bully saying “nobody likes you,”) – and blow me, fame and funding follow the narrative. The strongest woman in Britain lives in Melton. Did you even know that?

– Partly it is about defending the utter necessity for certain woman-specific provision. We can all dream of an equal society, but whilst 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence, whilst one British woman is killed by a man – generally one she knows – every 2.4 days, women and children desperately need refuges,  support, safe spaces for access, and the funding for all this. Any meninists protesting equality will not make these requirements less needful, less vital.

And all people – men and women – who believe in equality realise this as truth.

But without a woman to speak up for equality in the Suffolk administration – what happens to it?  It is ‘assumed’ as existing without existing. The funding gets lost because the issue has no direct relevance to the men in charge – and the whole county suffers.

Sad but true.

And I am going to be here to carry on pointing it out, until the Suffolk  administration realises this too.

The situation of carers in Suffolk

EADT’s coverage of the problems faced by Carers

Brilliant to see the EADT taking the issues faced by unpaid carers – particularly working-age women – so seriously.

Their coverage  today:

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/carers-don-t-want-cake-they-want-realistic-support-says-campaigning-councillor-1-5074532

highlights many of  the problems and inequities faced by women carers  in Suffolk: longterm stress,  poverty, loss of career, pension, loneliness, the often infantile and wholly inadequate nature of the ‘support’ on offer.

And as the LibDem Green and Independent Group’s spokesperson for Women I suggest the problems experienced by carers would be less hidden if Suffolk County Council made themselves more aware of the challenges facing women in the county!

Blue Plaques for Woodbridge Women?

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to see 4 blue plaques to famous women unveiled in Ipswich: illustrator Margaret Tempest; archaeologist Nina Layard; suffragette Constance Andrews; and socialist and Mayor, Mary Whitmore. These additions mean that now Ipswich has 17 blue plaques commemorating men and 6 for women. Not gender balance – but better than the previous 17-2 ratio.

Coming home I wondered anew why we in Woodbridge  have no blue plaques at all to commemorate any  famous, inspirational  or unusual women with a Woodbridge connection? The Woodbridge Society has put up 8 – but all to men. Surely it is time to start redressing the balance?

I would like to nominate:

Margaret Agnes Rope, the famous Arts & Crafts stained glass artists trained at Birmingham School of Art, and was taught by Henry Payne. She initially worked in Shrewsbury, but in 1911 went work at the Glass House in Fulham. In 1923 she took the veil, entering the Carmelite nunnery in Woodbridge, Suffolk.  A feisty woman who rode around England on a motorbike in 1918, smoking cigars and getting herself arrested, Margaret was one of the first women to make her living from art. After becoming a Carmelite she continued to work as stained glass artist, and supporting her nunnery through her stained glass window-making thereafter – both in Woodbridge, and when her order moved from there in 1939. Her greatest work is considered to be the Shrewsbury Cathedral west window. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Agnes_Rope

Archivist and preserver of local records Lilian Jane Redstone (1885-1955), Born in Woodbridge, Lilian Redstone was the first Ipswich and East Suffolk Joint Archivist, adviser to academics world-wide and author of numerous publications. She received an MBE in 1919 for her work during WW1 in the Historical Records Section at the Ministry of Munitions. During WW2 she worked to salvage and preserve documents moving them to places of safety. Her life work is now considered to be the foundation of the Suffolk Records Office. http://ipswichwomeninhistory.co.uk/1800s/lilian-jane-redstone/

Enid Blyton 1897-1968 Bestselling children’s author.  Due to attend the Guildhall School of Music, it was while  staying with  friends at Seckford Hall that Blyton changed her mind. The hall with its ‘haunted’ bedroom, secret passage and surrounding farmland was a source of great delight and inspiration. After helping her friend Ida Hunt at Woodbridge Congregational Sunday School, Enid decided on a career in teaching, trained as a primary school teacher in Ipswich, started writing – and the rest is history. http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/chronology.php

Anne Knight –1792 – 1860. Quaker children’s writer and educationalist.  Eldest child of Woodbridge leather-cutter Jonathan Waspe, she married a London, returning to Woodbridge after his early death to keep a school in Woodbridge. She was a friend of the poet Bernard Barton, who lodged with her and her sisters. She is therefore mentioned several times in letters to him from Charles Lamb. Anne Knight was the author of several children’s books, including School-Room Lyrics (1846), and probably Poetic Gleanings (1827), Mornings in the Library (London, c. 1828, with an introductory poem by Bernard Barton), Mary Gray. A tale for little girls (also including a Barton verse, London, 1831), and Lyriques français: pour la jeunesse. Morceaux choisis par A. K. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Knight_(children%27s_writer)

Finally, there’s the wonderful Elizabeth With – about whom I am trying to find out more, than this glorious snippet:

elizabethwith
Details about Elizabeth WIth of Woodbridge and her book ‘Elizabeth Fools Warning’ – a rare, blow-by-blow depiction of the breakdown of a seventeenth century marriage

These are women that come to mind – I’m sure there must be plenty more. Nominations, anyone?