Archive for the ‘Wales’ Category

Following feedback from users we set up the blog womensgrid to focus on information by and about women from around the UK and Ireland (and any European items that seem relevant).

So to see the latest UK and Ireland posting go to http://womensgrid.freecharity.org.uk

(see original annoucement at https://womensphere.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/womensgrid-blog-for-local-womens-news-and-information/)

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Posting moved to womesngrid:

Many thanks to everyone who has taken part in our survey “A Women’s Agenda for the Local Elections May 2008” but …

… if you only voted on the opening question about funding women’s core services and did NOT go to the end of the survey and click on “submit survey” your opinions will not be included.

So please can you find the time to go back to the survey and make sure that you click through to the last page and click on the button to submit your survey.

And for anyone who hasn’t yet taken the survey please add your opinions not only about funding women’s core services but also about the issues that are important to you in your local area.

Survey closes tomorrow – Tuesday 29th at 4pm – many thanks.

To take the survey or validate your earlier answers go to http://s-6y98u-43773.sgizmo.com

Many thanks!
Women in London
http://www.womeninlondon.org.uk

(see https://womensphere.wordpress.com/2008/04/22/is-there-a-womens-agenda-for-the-local-elections-should-there-be/)

WBG Responses – HM Treasury’s Budget 2008

We welcome the emphasis of this Budget on efforts to end child poverty. However, we are disappointed that you did not take the opportunity to address the acute and chronic funding crisis in sexual and domestic violence services within the women’s voluntary sector. In the last 10 years rape crisis centres have been closing, leaving many women with nowhere to turn. As less than 10% of rapes are reported to the criminal justice system, non-statutory provision represents an essential and trusted source of support for women. While we welcome the announcement of the March 19th of a one-off injection of funds into rape crisis centres, we would have welcomed an acknowledgement of this in the budget, together with a clear commitment to sustainable funding for rape crisis centres and other women-only support services for violence against women. We have set out below the key issues on which we wish to comment in detail.

Download from http://www.wbg.org.uk/documents/Budget2008.pdf

The WBG brings together feminist economists, researchers, policy experts and activists to work towards our vision of a gender equal society in which women’s financial independence gives them greater autonomy at work, home, and in civil society.

We work towards this by:
* developing analysis and leading debate on:
* the gender implications of economic policy
* the social dimensions of economic policy
* incorporating a consideration of the unpaid economy into economic policy
* how economic policy might free women and men from stereotypes
* raising awareness and expanding understanding within the UK Ministry of Finance and other policy makers and opinion formers on the gender implications of economic policy
* promoting, encouraging and enabling the use of gender mainstreaming and in particular gender budget analysis
* contributing to and learning from international learning and progress on the applicaion of gender budget analysis

Our two main activities are:
* collating expertise from a range of individuals and organisations in order to influence and inform government policy (see Reports and Responses)
* working with Her Majesty’s Treasury to develop a gender budget for the UK (see Gender Budget Analysis)

http://www.wbg.org.uk/AboutUs.htm

Vote Match UK – London Mayoral and Assembly Elections

Unlock Democracy has teamed up with the Netherlands-based Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek (IPP) to launch Vote Match UK. Our first project will be based around the 2008 London Mayoral and Assembly elections. We hope to continue this with future UK elections including 2009’s European Parliament elections and the next general election.

Vote Match is a short quiz that voters can fill in to match their views with the views of the election candidates. In the interests of minimising any unintended biases, the tool is intended to be as transparent as possible:
* Candidates and parties will be asked to provide their own answers based on their own published policy.
* Users can include and/or exclude parties and candidates from the survey as they see fit and add extra weight to those issues which they consider to be important.
* The website does not simply give you an answer – it shows you how the results are calculated.
* Vote Match is not about telling people how to vote and we do not support any political party. Rather, it is about encouraging voters to consider which issues are important and informing them about where the parties and candidates stand.

IPP have been developing Vote Match (known as Stemwijzer in the Netherlands) since 1988, originally in book form. In the last Dutch elections, an estimated 35% of the electorate used their website. As well as the Netherlands, Vote Matches have been developed for the German, French, Bulgarian and Swiss elections (see links sidebar). Surveys in the Netherlands and Germany found that 80% found it to be a trustworthy tool.

Vote Match can also help to boost turnout. Of the people who used the Dutch and German websites and did not intend to vote, 10-15% went on to do so.

If you live in London and want to try out this quiz go to http://london.votematch.net/VoteMatchLondon/index.html

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Unlock Democracy is the UK’s leading campaign for democratic reform. Established in 2007 following the merger of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, we argue and campaign for a vibrant, inclusive democracy that puts power in the hands of the people.

As well as campaigning, we exist to promote:
* a new culture of informed political interest and responsibility, paving the way for increased enthusiastic public participation
* a pluralist democracy that is responsive to the problems and aspirations of all people, valuing and accommodating difference, diversity and universal human rights. Everyone has the right to live their life in dignity under the law, and free from fear.

Unlock Democracy is a non-aligned organisation, committed to working inclusively across the political spectrum.

We see Vote Match as a valuable tool in achieving these ends.

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The premise of Unlock Democracy is simple: far too much power is locked up in the hands of far too few people. In particular, we want to:

Unlock Government: the combination of the inherited powers of feudal monarchs, modern media’s concentration on the Prime Minster and overuse of the party whip has turned Britain in to one of the most centralised countries in Europe. Governments have become locked in a vicious circle of centralising power in an effort to improve public services, only to find this leads to increased dissatisfaction. The quango state – unelected and unaccountable bodies which have a direct impact on ordinary people’s lives – has become a common feature of our political life.

Unlock the Constitution: despite advances such as the creation of the Human Rights Act, a simple majority in the House of Commons can curtail our rights and freedoms by changing our unwritten constitution. At a time of heightened security and fear of terrorism we believe that Britain needs a new constitutional settlement in which basic rights and freedoms are entrenched.

Unlock Political Parties: representative democracy is in long-term decline. However, instead of simply taking the populist stance that polticial parties are part of the problem, we need to recognise the important role they play in connecting the vast majority of voters to our political system. Unlock Democracy will be a critical friend of the political party: while being honest about its limitations, we will embrace its potential for encouraging greater participation. This means reforming the way parties are funded to incentivise meaningful engagement and talking up party activity as a public good rather than some sort of anti social behaviour.

Unlock Decision-making: participation is about more than consultation. Nothing encourages cynicism more than a public body asking for views on an issue that has already been decided upon. The public should be given a real say in issues that concern them, using tools that provide genuine engagement such as Citizens’ Juries. But such tools are expensive and can only involve a limited number of people at any one time. Citizens should be given the right to petition for Parliamentary debates, public inquiries and, where necessary, referendums on issues that concern them.

Unlock Democracy will continue campaign for individual reforms such as a predominantly elected Second Chamber and initiatives such as the Sustainable Communities Act, and will play our part in reskilling the political process by holding events such as People and Politics Day. Ultimately however, we have three main goals in mind:
* A Citizens’ Convention: the UK needs a Constitutional Convention look at how the various tiers of government work together and to consider the entrenchment of basic rights and freedoms. However, such a convention must not be made up of the Great and Good. It needs to be created and agreed by the citizens of the United Kingdom because ultimately it is their freedoms and interests which it will serve and protect.
* Electoral Reform: the first-past-the-post electoral system, still used for the House of Commons and for local elections in England and Wales, is bust. We need a fair, open and proportional voting system that better serves our multi-party system.
* More direct decision making: we need to investigate new ways to enable members of the public to set the political agenda by petitioning for a specific proposal which under certain circumstances might lead to a referendum if there was sufficient demand for one.
* Unlock Democracy will work closely with any individual or organisation which shares our desire to unlock power and to change the nature of British democracy. Furthermore, as a membership organisation, we practice what we preach: by joining both or either organisations you will be given a say in and a vote on what our priorities should be.

(The costs of Vote Match are being underwritten by Unlock Democracy. Unlock Democracy is grateful for a £5,000 grant from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. to help fund this project. We welcome donations from individuals.)

For more information about Unlock Democracy and our work contact:
Unlock Democracy, 6 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF.
Tel: 020 7278 4443.
Email: info@unlockdemocracy.org.uk
Web: http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/

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Is there a Women’s Agenda for the Local Elections – should there be?

Women are dying to look perfect.

Literally. Last year’s toll included a music promoter who expired on the operating table while undergoing cosmetic surgery, and a couple of fashion models who starved themselves to death. High profile enough to have made headlines, these women may represent just a fast glimpse of the beauty industry’s dark lining.

But they have no one but themselves to blame for the risky lifestyle choices they made in pursuit of looking good. Or do they?

The U.K. Periodical Publishers Association has launched an inquiry into the pervasive practice of digitally enhancing photographs. The initiative was inspired by a report commissioned by the British Fashion Council into the industry’s regrettable influence on women’s body image. And the council’s report? It was prompted by public outrage over the death of the models and the destructive definition of ideal femininity perpetuated by fashion media.

It should be an old story. Women’s groups have been protesting unattainable beauty standards for decades. Here in Canada, Media Watch spent more than 25 years conducting research, delivering educational seminars, meeting with regulators and mobilizing consumers around the need for more responsible media portrayals.

Despite such activism, and greater public awareness, some aspects of the situation have gotten worse, not better. Magazine cover stories sensationalize celebrity crimes against body image every week; reality TV shows regularly invent new ways to exploit women’s insecurities; and the digital distortion of Photo-shopped images fuels exponential growth in cosmetic surgery procedures, despite the health risks attached to many.

So the move by British magazine publishers to explore the development of an ethics code on retouching is long overdue. Why shouldn’t magazines be held to the same ethical standards that newspapers follow? Consumers have a right to expect authenticity from the photos they disseminate. If we can’t trust that the images we’re looking at reflect reality, why should we credit the words that appear alongside them with any greater truth?

An even more compelling case can be made for the images that appear in ads. When cosmetic companies claim that their lotions and creams will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite, it’s reasonable to expect that the photographs purporting to illustrate such results have not been altered. How is “truth in advertising” served when models promoting dietary aides and foundation makeup have achieved their slim silhouettes and flawless complexions with the help of an airbrush artist?

The increasingly popular trend among supermarket tabloids to feature undoctored images of makeup-free celebrities looking shockingly ordinary offers the welcome relief of a little Schadenfreude – being reminded that not even Halle Berry looks like Halle Berry without digital enhancement reassures us about our own imperfections. And the staggering success of Dove’s campaign for “real beauty” underscores the appeal of authentic imagery.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. A growing body of research documents the damage done by increasingly unattainable physical ideals on the self-esteem of young girls and adult women alike. The punishing comparisons with perfection help to trigger anorexia in those predisposed to it, and health professionals are clear that commercial media images are significant contributing factors to depression, bulimia and the skyrocketing increase in cosmetic surgery procedures.

The good news is that avoiding exposure to such imagery can have a remarkably positive impact on the way women feel about themselves. And when people become more aware of this, they’re increasingly likely to either press for the kind of responsibility being considered in the U.K., or to stop buying the magazines entirely.

Consider the views of the fashion industry’s most sought-after target market. Last year, with the professional assistance of EKOS Research, Media Watch – recently renamed Media Action/Action Media – conducted focus groups with young women from across Canada who were asked their impressions of the dominant image of women in popular media.

“Skinny,” “sleazy” and “stupid” were the representative adjectives volunteered by the 14- to 24-year-olds who were canvassed in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. All the young women expressed universal frustration with pervasive images of “flawless” female bodies (read slim and large breasted), and the disproportionate attention seemingly paid to those women eager to minimize the amount of fabric between their skin and the camera.

While current media practices unfortunately suggest that Media Action remains as relevant today as it was 25 years ago, the savvy cynicism and growing trend among young women to create their own alternative media content is fuelling renewed activism and – hopefully – much needed change.

http://www.thestar.com/columnists/article/416141

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PPA working group on digital enhancements
http://www.ppa.co.uk/cgi-bin/go.pl/news/article.html?uid=12486

Travellers who have suffered domestic violence are being asked if they would prefer a women’s refuge in a caravan rather than a building, it emerged today.

A branch of the domestic violence charity Women’s Aid is looking at providing a trailer or chalet-style facility in the garden of an existing refuge to improve services for travellers and gypsies.

It has set up an online survey to gather travellers’ views about the proposals.

The survey is funded by the Supporting People initiative run by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The plan, revealed in the national traveller, gypsy and Roma magazine Travellers’ Times, is also examining whether more women from the community should be encouraged to work with groups like Women’s Aid.

One traveller who has suffered domestic violence, identified only as “Annie”, told the magazine: “If I’d never lived in a house in the first place, I would not want to go into a house refuge.”

The Women’s Aid survey asks: “Would you want to stay in a refuge that had a secure mobile home/caravan in the garden for a gypsy/traveller woman and her children?”

It adds: “This survey is for gypsy/traveller women that have experienced domestic violence and may have used support services. It has been created to try to address the fact that traveller women may not be getting the service that they require or which meets their cultural needs.”

The plan has been put forward by West Mercia’s branch of Women’s Aid. Spokeswoman Sharne Maher said: “On average a woman will go through 12 agencies before finding a refuge. A woman from an ethnic minority background will have to work her way through about 17. We worry that some women simply give up trying.”

http://www.24dash.com/news/Housing/2008-04-25-Caravan-refuge-plan-for-traveller-domestic-violence-victims

* Cost of violence to women estimated at £40bn a year
* Government ‘should make effort to change attitudes’

The British public gives more to a Devon-based donkey sanctuary than the most prominent charities trying to combat violence and abuse against women, a report released today by a leading philanthropy watchdog reveals.

New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) has calculated that more than 7 million women have been affected by domestic violence but found that Refuge, the Women’s Aid Federation and Eaves Housing for Women have a combined annual income of just £17m. By contrast the Donkey Sanctuary, which has looked after 12,000 donkeys, received £20m in 2006.

NPC estimates the cost to society of domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, trafficking and honour crimes has reached £40bn a year – greater than the country’s defence budget.

“As a society we are not spending enough on this issue whether through charities or the government,” said Justine Järvinen, the author of the report. “Violence against women appears regularly as the subject of media reports and in the storylines of soap operas but rarely does it come up in normal conversation, which suggests there is a stigma around it. The truth is it is very common.”

Every year 1.5 million women experience domestic abuse at least once, 800,000 are sexually assaulted and 100,000 raped, the report states. More than one in four women has experienced at least one incident of domestic violence by a current or former partner, which means 7.4 million women in the UK have suffered domestic abuse, according to government figures.

The NPC was established by former executives of Goldman Sachs to analyse the effectiveness of charities for wealthy donors and has calculated the cost of this abuse at £40bn a year. This is made up of £10bn for the cost of lost economic output caused by abuse as well as the police work, court cases and psychological and physical healthcare arising from the abuse. Victims may also place greater demands on housing and benefit budgets if they have to move away, often with children, from a shared home with the abuser.

NPC has calculated the emotional cost of abuse of women is £30bn a year, using accepted measures devised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence for translating emotional cost into financial cost. Sexual violence accounts for £26bn of the cost with domestic violence accounting for £20bn.

Prostitution, trafficking and violence against black and ethnic minority women accounts for the rest. “The government has a responsibility to change attitudes and prevent abuse from happening in the first place,” said Järvinen. “A third of men think that domestic violence is acceptable if their partner has been nagging them.”

Today’s report references an ICM poll which found that more people would call the police if someone was mistreating their dog than if someone was mistreating their partner. NPC is calling for concerted government action to tackle violence against women and is urging charitable donors to divert more to non-governmental organisations in the sector.

It said that the 200 largest charities which provide services for abused women or campaign to prevent abuse have a combined annual income of £97m. That compares with £110m for the RSPCA, £149m for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and £83m for the Royal Opera House.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/apr/23/charitablegiving.childprotection

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* Animal charities and rape crisis centres
* A cause well worth funding – The impact of domestic violence on black and minority ethnic women may be worse than for other women

Under current legislation, people who travel to Britain on marriage visas remain completely financially dependent on their partners for the first two years.

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Anita’s story and the callous immigration rule that trapped her

At first glance Anita Jain looks and acts just like any other bright and confident 28-year-old woman. It’s only when she pulls back her sleeves to reveal the deep, angry scars running along her wrists that you realise Anita’s recent past has been anything but plain sailing.

For two years her husband beat her horrendously. So bad was the abuse that she was regularly hospitalised – on one occasion a nurse even found a footprint in the small of her back.

Helping any vulnerable woman escape from such a situation is depressingly difficult. But a particularly callous British immigration law means that, for people like Anita, finding a way out is even harder.

The problem is that although Anita, an Indian national, had come to Britain perfectly legally and was married to a British citizen she was forbidden from accessing any public money during her first two years in the country.

Story continues at http://blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/2008/04/no-recourse—o.html

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‘He Made Me Feel So Very Afraid’

When Jennifer moved to Grimsby to be with her British husband, she was hopeful about beginning a new future, with a new man, in a new home.

She often wondered if she was doing the right thing by leaving behind her friends and family in Africa, but pushed aside her reservations when she saw how eager her partner was to share his life with her and her daughter.

Several years later, and the optimism of those early days is replaced with the pessimism of bitter experience.

“There’s always regrets in life, but that’s how you learn,” said Jennifer. “Now, I’m saying ‘no’ to relationships forever. Some people are probably lucky, but I just think ‘no more.'”

To begin with, says Jennifer – a quiet and dignified woman in her 30s – her husband was nice and treated her well.

However, not long after moving to the town, he told her that British people are racist and would not like the fact that he had married a black woman.

From the beginning, Jennifer felt trapped. She was never allowed a key to the house, remained locked indoors all day, and had no access to money, food or clothing – unless it was provided by her husband.

He even insisted that they walk her daughter to school together rather than let her out of his sight for a minute.

She tried applying for jobs, but her husband posted the applications and potential employers mysteriously failed to respond.

Story continues at http://www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=181505&command=displayContent&sourceNode=231723&home=yes&more_nodeId1=151458&contentPK=20457024

* Report backs scrapping of free nursery places at three and four to fund universal allowance
* Mothers should be paid to stay at home if they want to when their children are young, according to a report launched by the Conservatives’ shadow minister for the family.

State help for families has been channelled under Labour into tax credits to pay for nurseries and childminders but what most mothers want is to work part-time or not at all, particularly when their children are under five, the controversial review by two leading academics for the think-tank Policy Exchange argues.

It argues mothers should be paid an allowance to spend either on formal childcare such as nurseries, informal care like grandparents helping out, or on subsidising a parent to stay at home. It argues the current free nursery places for three- and four-year-olds could be scrapped to fund the new allowance.

Worries about their children’s welfare are a bigger deterrent to women working than childcare costs, the report concludes, suggesting that making childcare cheaper will not solve their dilemma.

Maria Miller, the shadow family minister who will help launch the report, said she would study the findings closely. She admitted such a universal care allowance could be expensive, but added: ‘Support for families in the first three years is really still a neglected area of policy: great strides have been made in some areas but many women are still feeling that they have got really little choice in how they structure their family’s life.’

The findings will reopen passionate debate between stay-at-home and working mothers, and have attracted interest from senior Tories who argue they should be promoting mothers’ freedom to raise their families as they wish.

The National Day Nurseries’ Association, however, warned yesterday that a universal care allowance would be a ‘risky prospect’ leading parents into low quality, unregulated childcare by untrained people rather than settings that helped a child develop. Ministers have also argued that allowing tax credits to be spent on care by grandparents would be open to fraud.

The Policy Exchange report lambastes government for skewing family policy towards getting women out to work and cherry picking evidence which suits them, rather than accepting that many mothers would actively prefer to be at home – and that where parents do work, informal care like grandparents is often preferred to nurseries or childminders.

Research carried out by the Women’s Unit at the Cabinet Office in 1999 showed that ‘one third of women believed home and family were women’s main focus in life and that women should not try to combine a career and children’, the report notes – even though two thirds thought a job was a woman’s best route to independence.

It found that if money were no object, only 5 per cent of mothers would still work full-time, while three-quarters would prefer a part-time job and the rest would not work at all.

Yet ministers ‘used the findings selectively to support predetermined policy positions – in particular policies promoting paid work as women’s central life activity’, the report concludes.

The top three reasons cited by mothers for not working, in another survey commissioned from academics by the then Department for Education and Skills, were wanting to stay with their children, thinking the children were too young or that they would suffer if the mother worked. Only 10 per cent said it was because ‘I cannot afford quality childcare’, the report argues, concluding that affordability of childcare is ‘rarely the main problem for parents … The crucial factor is parental values.’

Miller admitted, however, that a package enabling all mothers to stay at home could be prohibitively expensive. ‘All too often people talk about women having a choice but in actual fact many families don’t have the choice: financial necessity means that they have to go back to work. It’s very difficult to envisage the programme that is going to take away that financial necessity for large numbers of people.

‘But what is exciting about the Policy Exchange report is that they are really questioning hard this overcentralised approach. They are also questioning this spending on subsidised childcare without recognising the contribution made by those who decide to take more time out.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/apr/20/conservatives.children

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Parents’ childcare preferences not being met
Leading thinktank proposes universal childcare allowance

Parents in Britain still pay 70 per cent of their childcare costs compared to the European average of 30 per cent. This is in spite of a decade of intensive reform and total spending of £17 billion from 1997 to 2006 on services for young children. Nevertheless, according to ‘Little Britons’, a comprehensive new report into childcare choice for the leading thinktank Policy Exchange, parents’ preferences for childcare are not being met by the options currently available. The Government’s basic aim has been to encourage as many mothers as possible into paid work – and for children to be placed in formal childcare settings – but women would actually prefer, in many cases, for their children to be cared for in their own homes, the report concludes.

Downnload:
* Full Report http://policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/376.pdf
* Executive Summary http://policyexchange.org.uk/images/libimages/375.pdf

Violence against babies and young children in England and Wales more than doubled last year, a survey of accident and emergency unit data suggests.

The Cardiff University study indicates the number of under-10s who were hurt rose to 8,067 from 3,805 in 2006.

But it found violence against people of all ages fell by 12% overall, following a trend of the past eight years.

Researchers said the rise in injuries could be down to domestic incidents or violence between children.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the data showing an increase might turn out to be a one-off for last year.

But he added that children’s’ charity the NSPCC had described the survey’s findings as “deeply worrying”, and said hospitals and other agencies must work better to identify children at risk.

The NSPCC’s head of child protection awareness, Chris Cloke, said it was working closely with doctors and nurses to advise them on spotting deliberate injuries.

Cardiff University’s Violence and Research Group have been monitoring admissions for violence-related injuries in a representative sample of casualty units since the 1990s.

Its research into 29 hospital A&E units are extrapolated to national levels.

For the past eight years, the overall number of people needing treatment has been falling.

In 2007, victims aged over 18 saw the greatest fall in violence, and among over 50s there was a 17% decline. Those aged 18 to 30 remained at greatest risk, making up nearly half of violence-related patients.

It is the figures for children aged from birth to under 10 that have caused the greatest concern.

The report said: “It is not clear whether violence at the hands of parents or carers is responsible for this increase.

“Recent evidence suggests that violence between children at school and in public places is also a problem.

“In any event, the roles of child safeguarding agencies including the NHS, police and local authorities remain essential and should be enhanced.”

Maxillofacial surgeon Professor Jon Shepherd, who chairs the Cardiff group, said: “We would have expected levels among 11 to 17-year-old children to show a rise, because of the increases in youth violence that people have in the back of their minds.

“But that was not what we found.”

The figures were released on the same day the government’s latest quarterly crime figures for England and Wales are due to be published.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Any violent crime is intolerable particularly when it is directed against children.

“That is why the government’s recently published Tackling Violence Action Plan includes new resources for healthcare providers, local authorities and the police to share information to ensure that people at risk are protected and offenders are brought swiftly to justice.”

He noted the report found violence had fallen last year and the British Crime Survey showed incidents had decreased by 31% over the past 10 years.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: “This is yet more evidence showing that violence is becoming an everyday part of life for younger and younger people under this government.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7364072.stm

It is expected MPs will get a vote on cutting the 24-week limit – possibly to 20 weeks – in an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

It would be the first time politicians have had a chance to vote on the issue since 1990. And the prospect has prompted campaigners on both sides of the debate to start lobbying MPs.

A parliamentary campaign, involving celebrities and MPs, is being launched to keep the limit at 24 weeks. It comes after suggestions MPs will table amendments to the bill when it is next before parliament, probably at the end of May.

The 20-week amendment is likely to be tabled by Tory Nadine Dorries(*), a former nurse, although there is talk of a second amendment being tabled proposing an even lower limit.

They are being supported by Alive and Kicking, an umbrella group of pro-life organisations. Julia Millington, the group’s spokeswoman, said they wanted to see the time limit reduced to as low as possible.

“We will support any amendments to the bill which will help us reach our short-term objective of halving the number of abortions in this country.”

However, a cross-party group of MPs is seeking to safeguard the current arrangements. They have received support from celebrities such as comedian Jo Brand.

Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris, a former hospital doctor, said: “The medical community is clear that there is no medical or scientific basis for any reduction in the current time limit.”

Leading medical organisations, including the British Medical Association and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, have come out in favour of the 24-week limit, pointing out there has been no significant improvements in survival before 24 weeks.

The recent Epicure 2 study, a major review of all live very early births in 2006, confirms this, although it said there had been improvements in the 24 to 25-week period in the last 10 years. Of those that are born at 23 weeks, 40% will die in the labour ward, the study found.

Pro-choice MPs are also expected to put forward a proposal to relax abortion laws by scrapping the need for two doctors to agree to a termination and allowing nurses to carry them out in the early stages.

MPs will be given a free vote on any abortion-related amendments.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7360813.stm

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(*) Thatcherite from Anfield to lead abortion battle
Nadine Dorries is the girl from the Liverpool council estate in Anfield who grew up to be a Conservative MP and a lone Scouse voice in a party still dominated by Old Etonians.

A Women’s Agenda for the Local Elections May 2008

* Have you heard politicians canvassing for votes mention a policy that is important to you as a woman?
* Or do you think politicians are taking women’s vote for granted?
* Or in the 21st century maybe you think local issues are gender neutral?

So with just over a week to go we thought we would try and help make public the concerns and priorities for women with a vote to cast on 1st May 2008.

Maybe your concerns are ‘traditional’ women’s issues, such as more affordable child care, more local well paid part time work, more affordable housing, easy access to appropriate health care, better services for carers, choice of school places, .

Or maybe your concerns are more about your area’s infrastructure, such as cheaper/better public transport, more cycle lanes, more play and sports grounds, no closure of local post offices, safer streets, more dentists surgeries, .

And because we appreciate that funding of women’s services is such a critical issue for many women, we want to ask a separate question about that, but hope you will use the other questions to help us compile a list of the unmet needs of women in your local area.

We realise that not everyone will be having local elections – if you are not sure see the lists at http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/elections2008.cfm. But even if there aren’t local elections in your area, why not get your voice heard now – it may make a difference when it is your turn!

We hope you will find time to take this survey.

We will close the survey at 4pm on Tuesday 29th April and will make every effort to publish the results by Wednesday 30th April

To take the survey go to http://s-6y98u-43773.sgizmo.com

Many thanks!
Women in London
http://www.womeninlondon.org.uk

On 4th April we included a news story “A degree of difficulty for feminism as students change the subject” which gave the impression that the last Women’s Studies course was coming to an end.

Since then we’ve been contacted by a reader of womensphere to tell us that although widespread these rumours are untrue!

A search of the web revealed these universities still listing Women’s Studies on their web sites.

Bangor University
* Women’s Studies (MA/Diploma/Certificate)

University of Oxford
* One-year interdisciplinary Master’s degree

Lancaster University Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies
* Women’s Studies undergraduate first year programme, the Master’s Programmes in Women’s Studies, and PhD supervision

University of York Centre for Women’s Studies
* MA in Women’s Studies

Ruskin College Oxford
* MA in Women’s Studies (next course not due until 2009)

London Metropolitan University
* BA Womens Studies is available in joint, major or minor combinations and is available in either full or part-time (day or evening) mode.

University of Bradford
* MA Gender and Women’s Studies

And there may well be more … In addition the Independent has now posted to its web site the following story:

Women’s studies are alive and well
Media reports have declared that the subject is dead. But our investigation shows it is surviving – and tackling today’s issues.

Apologies for our unquestioning use of a mainstream media story!

Women, and men, with violent partners are said to be less willing to lodge complaints because the likelihood of this resulting in their partner getting a criminal record has increased.

The Ministry of Justice confirmed today that it is setting up an urgent meeting with judges to discuss the situation, which it is claimed could be putting around 5,000 people a year, mostly women, at increased risk.

The complaint concerns a provision in the Domestic Violence Act that came into force in July last year. It means that a partner who is found to be in breach of a non-molestation order will be committing a criminal offence, instead of having the matter dealt with through the civil courts as before.

Judge John Platt, a circuit judge dealing with domestic violence cases, told the Times today that the number of women seeking non-molestation orders had fallen by between 25 and 30% since the new provisions came in.

Since there were 20,000 such applications in 2006, this figure suggests that 5,000 people could be losing out from the protection offered by a non-molestation order.

“Obviously this is a very worrying figure. Either offenders have changed their behaviour – which seems extremely unlikely – or the victims do not want to criminalise the perpetrators,” Platt told the paper.

A spokesman for Sir Mark Potter, president of the family division of the high court, confirmed that other judges were also worried about the decline in the number of applications for non-molestation orders.

Potter was “very concerned that, for whatever reason, the legislation appears to have led to a reduction rather than an increase in the protection afforded to victims of domestic violence as a result of the change of the law”, the spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice would not say today whether ministers accepted that the new legislation was to blame for the reduction in the number of non-molestation orders.

But he said the department would be holding a meeting with judges very soon to discuss the matter further.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/apr/14/justice.ukcrime

What does the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) do?

The NMC aims to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public by continually regulating, reviewing and promoting nursing and midwifery standards. The NMC aims to uphold the reputation of the professions in the eyes of the public, government, other healthcare organisations, and nurses and midwives themselves.

Launch of the new Code for nurses and midwives

7th April 2008 marked the launch of the new edition of The Code of Standards for conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. The Code informs nurses and midwives of the standard of professional conduct they are expected to work to, and informs the public, other professions and employers of the standard of professional conduct that they can expect of a nuse or a midwife.

Nurses and midwives are the largest group of healthcare professionals in the UK and the number of people they treat and care for is significant. The new version of the Code has been designed to very clearly demonstrate to all groups, the standard of care that patients should be receiving.

The first edition of the Code was published in 2004, and though it worked well for the healthcare environment at the time, things have moved on since then. Practise is continually changing and the role of a nurse and midwife is ever expanding. Many tasks that were traditionally undertaken by doctors are now being carried out by nurses or midwives. The NMC recognised this shift, and the significant impact it has had on the way patients receive care. The new version of the Code has been updated to reflect these developments.

The revised Code has been developed following extensive consultation with nurses and midwives, members of the public, employers and others. In particular, consumer and patient representative groups have welcomed the Code.

* See what they have been saying about the Code http://www.nmc-uk.org/aArticle.aspx?ArticleID=3082
* Read the Code on the NMC website at http://www.nmc-uk.org/aSection.aspx?SectionID=45

Have your say about equality and diversity at the NMC

Prior to finalising our Equality Scheme, the NMC is holding a series of focus groups around the UK to discuss our plans around equality and diversity with our stakeholders. A focus group for lay people on 5 June 2008 will provide an opportunity for individuals and representatives of service users to tell us what the issues are for them and the people they represent.

For more information, or to take part in the focus group, contact Marie Saldanha on 020 7462 5880 or marie.saldanah@nmc-uk.org by 16 May.

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

* Nine in ten expect barriers to becoming foster parent
* One in four expect to be treated worse by police if victim of hate crime
* Nearly one in five still bullied at work for being gay

A major YouGov poll of lesbian and gay people, commissioned by Stonewall, has found that despite recent legislative protections, a majority still believe they will be discriminated against when accessing public services. Almost a third expect to be treated worse than a heterosexual when enrolling their child in primary or secondary school. Nine in ten think they would face barriers from becoming a foster parent. Three in five still think they’d face barriers if they wanted to be a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party, a figure that rises to 90 per cent for the Conservatives.

YouGov surveyed a sample of 1,658, the first statistically significant national poll ever conducted into the life experiences of Britain’s 3.6 million gay people. Asked about their own experiences and expectations of discrimination when it came to work, education, politics, crime and the criminal justice system, housing and healthcare, the findings show:
* One in five expect worse treatment when applying for social housing.
* 60 per cent expect to face barriers to becoming a magistrate.
* A fifth expect to be treated worse than a heterosexual when reporting any crime to the police. A third think they would be treated worse by police if suspected of committing a crime, a figure which rises to 41 per cent in London.
* Nearly a quarter think they would be treated worse if they appeared before a judge for committing a criminal offence.

The polling is published in a new report, Serves You Right, supported by Accenture, which also makes a range of recommendations offering simple ways of improving public service delivery for lesbian and gay people.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Too many public services are still a bit too smug about the progress being made towards fair treatment for the lesbian and gay taxpayers who help fund them. The insight provided by this report is a valuable antidote to that sort of complacency.’

Serves You Right does, however, find that public bodies and companies that make a positive effort to promote fair treatment can reap significant reputational benefits. Nearly half of lesbian and gay people said they were likely to buy products from businesses that use images of gay people to sell their goods; two thirds are more likely to buy products from a company that shows a positive commitment to recruiting gay people.

Sam Clark, Accenture’s U.K. employee relations lead, said: ‘Accenture is committed to developing a culture that is blind to colour, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. We foster and sustain an environment where each employee is energised and feels respected, valued, fairly treated and able to develop his or her full potential. We hope that this ground-breaking research will help both employers and public bodies better examine – and address – a number of important issues in today’s workplace.’

Ben Summerskill said: ‘This pioneering research highlights the one remaining gap at the heart of Britain’s legislative equality framework. There is not yet a duty on public bodies requiring them to promote equality of service for gay people in a way that already exists for gender, ethnicity and disability. We’ll now be pressing the government to honour its outstanding manifesto pledge to introduce such a duty.’

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/current_releases/2223.asp

To download a copy of the report “Serves you right: Lesbian and gay people’s expectations of discrimination (2008)” at http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/servesyouright.pdf

_________________________________________________________________________
Notes
1. Full survey or breakdown of responses to individual questions are available on request.
2. YouGov sampled 1,658 adults who identified as lesbian, gay and bisexual between 6 -10 December 2007. The survey was conducted using an on-line interview. The resulting data was analysed and presented by Stonewall.

See news story about report:
Homophobia rife in British society, landmark equality survey finds
* Bullying in schools worse than for older generations
* Public bodies complacent, says gay rights charity
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/apr/01/equality.gayrights

Employers will be duty-bound to protect their staff from sexual harassment by customers, suppliers and others they encounter in the course of their work. Workers are already protected from harassment by colleagues, but under new rules which come into force on April 6, they will be able to seek damages from employers who fail to take reasonable steps to protect them from harassment by a third party, if bosses knew that at least two incidents had already taken place.

The government was forced to change the law after the then Equal Opportunities Commission – now part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission – won a ruling that the government had failed to properly implement the European equal treatment directive, which requires workers to be protected from “any unwanted conduct related to their sex which violates their dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

The rules are expected to have their biggest impact in the catering, hotel and retail trades. The EOC told the high court that sexual harassment by customers was rife in the hotel and restaurant industry, which employs 670,000 women. Stuart Chamberlain, an employment law expert at human resources adviser Consult GEE, said: “These new rules will affect any organisation that employs client-facing staff, such as bar and waiting staff, and those who work in the professional services sector, as well as teachers and other public sector staff.

“However, these changes present a new challenge for employers, who will be able to exert far less authority over a customer than over a member of their staff. Employers may feel uncomfortable about confronting clients about inappropriate behaviour, but they need to be aware that failing to take action on this could now result in a claim for compensation, including ‘injury to feelings’, under the Sex Discrimination Act.”

A Canadian study of retail workers 10 years ago found that a majority had been sexually harassed by customers in their job but were reluctant to confront them or complain because the work environment emphasised customer satisfaction. They were likely instead to avoid male customers and be less friendly, which could affect their job performance. Chamberlain said it was important to realise that all three incidents of harassment need not have been caused by the same person for a claim to be made: “Employers may be able to refuse to admit a customer who has harassed staff in the past, but this does nothing to prevent another individual harassing the same member of staff in the future.”

He added: “Shops or bars may be able to put up notices explaining that staff harassment is not tolerated. However, professional services companies who encourage staff to socialise with clients may find it difficult to convey that message.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/mar/31/law.equality

There has been no improvement in survival rates for babies born before 24 weeks in the past 10 years, a new study is expected to say.

Of infants born at 23 weeks, 40% die on the labour ward and of those that live only 26% survive hospital, BBC News 24 reported.

The figures are from a study called EPICure 2, which examined premature births in England in 2006.

An improvement has been seen in survival rates for babies who reach 24 weeks, when 47% survive, and 25 weeks, when 67% live.

The findings seem to reinforce the existing upper limit for abortions, which currently stands at 24 weeks.

Last October, the Science and Technology Committee of MPs found no scientific justification for lowering the 24-week limit. This was because survival rates for babies born before this point had not improved since 1995.

Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris who sits on the committee said: “Our report concluded that while the evidence showed that survival in premature infants born at 24 weeks and above had improved, there was good evidence that below that point – the current abortion time limit – neonatal survival has not changed since 1995.

“This study is crucial in adding to the scientific consensus that there is absolutely no medical basis for a change in the law. This national survey covered every extremely premature birth in the country – in all units – and the figures are comprehensive.

But Tory MP Nadine Dorries said the study was flawed because it concentrated on the most seriously ill babies who were often born in hospitals without neo-natal units and this would adversely affect their chance of survival.

She said: “Figures released by Professor Wyatt from University College London Hospital recently show very clearly that poorly premature babies born below 24 weeks have an excellent chance of survival if specialist neo-natal help is immediately at hand.”

http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gwwNTa5JynU7GtTfnHe6ZZ9K5nsg