Public Sector Strikes understandable but in vain

As a former teacher and a previous small business owner married to a serving teacher I can see today’s public sector strikes from both sides. I understand the anger of those who chose to work in the public sector accepting lower wages,but with the bonus of a good pension,who feel that they are paying the price for the financial crisis. I understand the irritation of private sector workers imconvenienced by todays strikes, among them many business owners who don’t have a pension at all, who feel public sector workers should share the pain.
The autumn statement and analysis of the current financial position of the UK made uncomfortable viewing – in the light the ongoing eurozone crisis I feel the public sector has no option but to accept the deal they have been offered. With up to 750000 public sector job losses predicted by the end of the Parliament many striking today may soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed and perhaps should be grateful to have a job at all!

Splurge on christmas to save the economy?

This morning we hear that a Eurozone collapse would lead to living standards dropping to that of Latin America. Ex-chancellors Brown and Darling predict that France will be next to take a battering from the markets…

So how long will it be before we are urged to splurge on Christmas to save the UK economy? From preaching a message of austerity and belt tightening will our government change it’s Christmas message to  – “spend spend spend?”

I for one have been running austerity measures in our household for too long to allow a huge Christmas splurge – we don’t do credit anymore so all our Christmas purchases will be paid for in cash – BUT my news savvy 13 year old has already commented that the Christmas budget should be doubled this year – because spending more on her presents is in the national interest !!

Scrooge or Greek style spending – what will it be in your household?

Italy engulfed in financial Spaghetti Junction

The crisis in Italy and the Eurozone debt nightmare is becoming like navigating spaghetti junction in rush hour.The complexities of the crisis and the ramifications for the world economy if country by country finds themselves insolvent make the mind boggle. We have built our societies on debt and some might see current events as divine retribution for greed – a natural reordering of an unsustainable world in which wealth has been created by manipulation,expoitation and massaging of the figures and not by plain old fashioned productivity and hard work.

We are being warned that the Eurozone crisis is worse than the banking crisis of 2008. Italy’s debt interest rate stands a 7% this morning described as unsustainable – I allowed myself a wry smile when I read that Barclays has a £27.5 bn holding in Italian debt – hard to feel sorry for their potential losses when they levy an interest rate of 30% on debt ridden Barclaycard customers – yet this punitive interest is in their eyes perfectly sustainable !









What price a university education?

Today’s student protests against the rise in university fees comes just as my 13 year old daughter is about to decide which GCSE’s she will take. We spent the weekend looking at University courses as she is determined to become a geneticist. We winced as we looked at the fees and for the first time the reality of the huge debt students leave University with hit home. We have five children so there will be a massive amount of student debt heading our way over the coming years.

I was the eldest of six children and I did a four year degree including an exchange year at University of Kansas USA, then a PGCE all paid for by the state. My husband too did a degree in Geography and his PGCE – we both agree we probably didn’t appreciate the worth of what was being provided free of charge.

Our children will have no option but to borrow to pay for their university education – todays protests will more than likely be hijacked by anarchists, allowing the government to deflect attention away from the issue of student debt – I say it’s all about priorities – and the government should prioritize the education of those who are future of this country – on this one the coalition has got it very badly wrong.

No room for bullying in Cyber Space

The actress Meera Syal has spoken out in The Telegraph today after daughter was the victim of a cyber bullying campaign. Although she was involved in a court case and was later found not guilty of an assault, it emerged in court that she had been at the receiving end of threats on Facebook. The issue of bullying via Facebook  was one which loomed large during my daughter’s final year at Primary School, although fortunately not involving her circle of friends. Playground fallouts translated into online slanging matches, involving pupils and then astoundingly, parents, culminating in the school threatening to get the police involved

Even more concerning, is the rise of anonymous faceless forum posters known as “trolls” who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to make viscious personal attacks on people. Two fellow mums who blog have been the target of horrendous vitriolic and libelous personal attacks on their blog comments this week alone. At the back of these attacks is often plain simple jealousy – both these bloggers write brilliantly. When I was pregnant with my last baby and part of an online birth group we were infiltrated by a “troll” who pretended he or she was pregnant and then announced quite falsely(causing untold distress) that they had had a stillborn baby! We will never know if that person was even a male or a female – young or old and it is this ability to hide that makes bullies and trolls fearless online.

As a new home educator seeking advice from more experienced home edders in a forum I mentioned that I had been a teacher. I stated my personal view that I wasn’t against involvement with the LEA or compulsory registration and it was like setting light to a touchpaper. There followed personal attacks and suspicion of my motives in being part of the group.  I was actually banned from a home ed yahoo group by its very fundamentalist owner because I expressed legitimate views about home ed which were different from her own! (Happy to be banned I might add – it was like leaving a group of religious fanatics!)

It is every internet users responsibility to stand up to cyber bullies. We need to educate our children to the pitfalls of social networking. Just as bullying is  wholly unacceptable in the” real” world it should not be acceptable online. Website owners and forum admintrators should do all they can to remove hateful/bullying posts from their sites when they appear and ban the poster.

Freedom of expression is not an excuse for online vitriol and as one blogger pointed out yesterday, the annonymity of the intenet is not as entire as the trolls and bullies might think….

Remembering the fallen?

As we approach Remembrance Sunday it is appalling to read that thieves are stripping war Memorials of their commemorative plaques in order to sell them on as scrap metal. One example given today is the village of Carlshalton whose war memorial has been entirely stripped of metal of the 14 brass plates bearing the names of men who died in World War 1. As the great-granddaughter of a soldier who lost his life in Ypres saving the life of another, I am truly disgusted. If ever there was an example of a broken society this it it! It strikes me that there is a good argument for bringing back National Service -if our war memorials are being desecrated then respect is truly being lost from our society.

Coalition threat to womens’ financial security

The Fawcett Society report out today has found that the financial security and human rights of women are under the biggest threat ” in living memory” according to a Guardian article today. The coalition governments policies disproportionately affect women. As the Fawcett Society says:

” On average, women earn less, own less, and are more likely to work and retire in poverty than men. The government’s approach to cutting the deficit will widen the gap between women and men: Female unemployment is rising as jobs are cut in public service -The benefits and services women rely on more are being slashed -Women on low incomes are becoming poorer -The pay gap looks set to widen -Women’s access to vital support services is being undermined -Increasing numbers of women are being forced to give up work as cuts to childcare support means their jobs no longer cover the family’s care costs.”

Child Poverty Action Group further highlights the issue that Universal Credit, unlike Child Tax Credit, will go to the main earner – for many non working mums like myself Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit is the only money they have direct control over as currently these benefits are usually paid to the mother. Child Poverty Action Group says:

“…. the most concerning design flaw that the Government must tackle… Payments in tax credits that are specifically for children’s needs and childcare currently go to the parent with care, usually the mother, but in the Universal Credit will be paid to the main earner because of the IT system. This transfer of thousands of pounds per family ‘from the purse to the wallet’ will threaten allocation within household budgets to meet children’s needs.”

“We cannot have an IT glitch driving a change that will turn back the clock on women sharing in control of the household budget and may lead to less spending on children’s needs. A firm commitment is needed from government that a solution will be found.”

In some households the relationship may not be  stable or the working partner may have issues – drinking, gambling, or may simply be bad at money management – which may mean that money never finds its way to the mother to meet the needs of the children.

And if this were not enough, changes under Universal Credit place a huge barrier in the way of women who might want to start self employment. Under the new rules claimants will be treated as having earned the minimum wage for the number of working hours declared when their entitlement is calculated – anyone who has started a business knows that taking minimum wage in the early years can be a tall order. How many talented women who want to start a business (myself included) will be put off because of the fear that they will lose their much needed tax credit and that in the short to medium term their children will suffer.

Universal Credit is due be introduced in 2013 – there is still take to make our voices heard – the clock must not be wound back and we must join together to fight for womens financial freedom and equality.

The changes I have outlined in this post are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the detriment of the position of women in this country – Sure Start Centres are being mothballed, funding for services which help women who are victims of domestic violence are being seen a an “easy cut” by councils” – the list goes on …

The Fawcett Society is holding a Day of Action on Saturday 19th November. Join the march in London (with a fifties dress up theme) or hold a tea party to show your support.

You can  also add a Twibbon to your Twitter profile or Facebook page here.

I hope that more mum bloggers and websites for mums such as Mumsnet will highlight these vital issues over the coming months.