Karen Wheller – virtual hustings

Karen Wheller has participated in our virtual hustings. You can read the full questions here. Karen is standing as candidate in the General Election in Lewisham West and Penge representing the Green Party.

  1. What will you do to support carersI believe we could invest in the below areas as a priority:

    – bring in universal, free childcare for all – this will aid parents when paid leave from work comes to an end, and will enable them to go back into work, knowing their child will be cared for

    – increase the rate of pay for Carer’s Allowance, for example increase to a minimum of £75/week (currently ~£67.20/week) and also have it increase at the rate of inflation each year, and recognise ‘unpaid’ informal care as eligible for Carer’s Allowance. On the Carer’s Allowance, also make it more flexible in terms of aiding carers who also work whilst supporting family members, and ensure it is not means tested based on income.

    – have an urgent, independent, review on the impact of cuts to social care funding, with an emphasis on the impact to disabled children and their carers, with a view to restoring the funding for at least frontline services which have borne the brunt of the cuts

    – also work towards integrating both social care and health care services in order to better support our carers, also with a look to also possibly ease the burden on the healthcare services

    – look towards building more social housing, and making it affordable – cap rents to a certain amount (a third of the average income of the area, for example), remove the cap on family benefits, or at least exempt housing benefit from the cap, as it accounts for so much of the current cap, remove the bedroom tax is it is discriminatory towards carers and disabled people. On housing, also ensure there is adequate funding for those fleeing from a dangerous or domestic violence situation, so that they have somewhere safe to go to, with support for children included, if involved. Make sure those fleeing an abusive situation are supported so that they do not have to return to such a situation.

    – prevent the changes to disability benefit – when claimants are moved over to Personal Independence Payments from Disability Living Allowance, if they have a life-long condition, they used to be entitled to a ‘indefinite’ claim, in recognition of the condition under DLA. When these claimants are moved to PIP they lose this indefinite claim status, thereby forcing them to undergo assessments to prove an entitlement to a benefit they already had. This causes unnecessary stress on families and carers, and should be prevented, with the indefinite claim status being maintained.

2. The Impact of BREXIT – What will you do to ensure that the voices of women by which we mean all women – white women and women of colour, disabled women, migrant women, LGBTQ+ women, younger and older women – are heard and their rights and needs are protected?

– Ensure any trade deals which are made in the event of Brexit do no impact negatively on either gender – make sure they maintain current gender equality, with an aim to new trade deals also reducing gender equality further

– maintain any existing legislation we have derived from the EU with regards to equality, also heavily scrutinise the Repeal Bill to ensure it does not water down the legislation we already have

– maintain membership of the Council of Europe and all the human rights implications which result from this, aka Human Rights Act, which should be maintained

– heavily scrutinise any deal which is made in the event of Brexit, also ensure it does not disrupt the peace process made through the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland

3. WOMEN AND MIGRATION – What will you do to restructure the migration system, so that it responds adequately to the gendered realities of migration, separation and multiple marginalization of women and girl refugees?

– ensure that equal rights for women and men are central to any international legislation which is made, likewise for any trade deals which are made between nations

– ensure no person fleeing to another country to escape a domestic violence situation is returned to that country, unless their safety can be guaranteed – women from another country who experience domestic abuse here in the UK and flee their partners should ne lose their right to remain in the UK

– end the detention of pregnant and other vulnerable women at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, if women seeking asylum are pregnant or otherwise vulnerable, allow them the full support of social services and the NHS whilst a claim is being processed

– work towards increasing the refugee quota, so we can take in more women and children; reduce fees for asylum and residency applications

4. EQUAL PAY – What actions will you take as Member of Parliament to close the gender pay & pensions gap?

– bring in universal, free childcare for all – this will aid parents when paid leave from work comes to an end, and will enable them to go back into work, knowing their child will be cared for, bring this is in to cover the end of paid parental leave after six/nine months

– require gender pat gap to be broken down further when reported – eg. Age and ethnicity – also bring down the requirements for reporting it – so all companies should report the pay gap, not just large companies with more than 250 employees for example

– improve the laws protecting women who lose their jobs when they go on maternity leave to be extended to protecting women from the time that they announce their pregnancy

– bring in a £10 minimum wage for all

– work so that social security provision seeks to reduce income inequality rather than propagate it it

– take a review of the tax relief for single pensions and look towards bringing in a new, single rate.

5. EQUAL EDUCATION- What will you do to ensure gender becomes irrelevant in our education system and ceases to influence the life chances of all our children?

– allow girls free access to sanitary products in school in order to ensure no girl misses school or has to leave during the day in the case of otherwise not having access to these products

– remove gender stereotypes from school – encourage children to play with whatever they choose to in early years education, allow either gender to wear the version of the school uniform they prefer

– bring in sex education to children throughout their educational life so they always have access to advice on relationships, sexual-related topics and issues such as that of consent –have a dedicated class with a dedicated teacher maybe?

– ensure sexism is treated similarly as bullying within a school setting, with a view to eradicating it from the schooling and education system

– possibly look at bringing in gender equality within a school setting as a possible inspection criteria when the schools are inspected

6. EQUAL PARENTING. – How will you work with us to implement universal childcare and our other proposals to enable all families however constituted – and in employment or self-employment – to have a full and productive family and working life?

– bring in a system so that either parent can take 9 months paid leave from work – allowing the mother, if the main ‘bread winner’ of the family to continue working, when the nine months of leave are finished, there should be free childcare provision to allow both parents to work, if required

– allow self-employed parents to have the same rights and protections as employed parents, as it’s a bit bizarre that they don’t at the moment, as the pressure is on to find employment before pregnancy, when self-employment may suit the individual better

– make sure baby changing facilities are available for both genders in public settings

– better protect cohabiting couples with children who are not married and give them the same access to mediation and other services

– review the child maintenance services for payments of child maintenance – see if there’s a way to have payments underwritten in case of the possibility of an absent parent being unable to make a payment, in order to relieve potential financial burden on the caring parent in the case of missed patment.

7. WE require an end to violence against women and girls. What will you do to ensure that women are safe in their homes, at work, study and in public, that they are believed when they report violence and harassment? What will you do to stamp out the culture that blames the victim and to reinstate vital women’s services that protect and support women and girls fleeing abuse?

– ensure anyone fleeing a domestic violence situation is offered a safe place to live, and does not have to face the possibility of returning to the situation they were fleeing from

– bring in better funded provision for services for advocacy and support for women who have been raped, ensure it is available for all, regardless of their BAME status or age

– bring in a better way of monitoring domestic abusers, so that they are more restricted from accessing the one they have been abusing after conviction, if jail sentences are not used

– bring in better services for male victims of domestic abuse so that such services can specialise in male or female abuse and tailor responses rather than the current model which either offers a gender-neutral advice system, or neglects male abuse – the needs for both genders suffering from abuse differ and this should be reflected in the services offered

– bring back legal aid for anyone suffering from domestic abuse and needing access to the legal services – from that, better train officers or officials dealing with abuse cases, improve sensitivity of the services when dealing with such cases – ensure those accused of domestic abuse are not allowed to cross-examine the victim in certain cases in court?

– work towards ending FGM on a national and international scale, with funding appropriated as such

– look at supporting the large number of women who have been jailed for reasons which have resulted from them suffering domestic abuse – i.e women jailed after ‘snapping’ after years of long term mental or physical abuse – provide better services so that such a situation does not occur.

– decriminalise prostitution, recognise it as a valid form of work, and protect those in the industry as such, any money raised from taxing of the sex industry should be used to fund an exit programme from said industry

– look at a nationwide, long-term campaign on the issue of consent, and what constitutes consent and doesn’t

8. Equal Representation: What will you do as an MP to ensure that women are elected, appointed and promoted at all levels in politics, business, arts, culture, sports, education/academia?

– bring in gender blind applications for all posts in industry, so that gender is not a required answer on an application form, and the application is based on the merits of the person sending it in, with gender not a concern

– bring in a way of empowering women so more feel inspired and encouraged to take up high posts, or positions in politics, with this empowerment coming at an early age through education, etc – allow for better parental leave options for those elected

– look at countries which have representative democracies and look at how we could review their systems, with a view to adjusting them to better fit in with our political systems

– end the ability for companies to have all-male boards and chairs

– enforce existing laws against gender discrimination better, especially for those who work part-time

– work towards a system where people are judged on their merits and abilities, not their gender

– work towards bringing in more accessible voting – extended hours, over days, possibly bringing in electronic voting

9.  Equal Health: What are your proposals to create a health service that recognizes gender difference and offers equality of care and research for all?

– encourage an inquiry into why there are inequalities in healthcare

– end the models of research where research is biased towards men i.e human models used for research were male, or not enough females took part in the research – recognise there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach which can be used for medical and healthcare research

– there should be universal access to sexual health, alongside universal access to reproductive advice for both genders – both should have access to free contraception as well as free emergency contraception if required

– decriminalise abortion in NI, recognise abortion is the ultimate choice of the mother

– look towards a better integrated health and social care system so that all needs are cared for, and no requirements are missed, look towards a system of prevention rather than intervention

– insure the NHS is better funded, remains nationalised, free at the point of use, with more funding for front-line staff, services and other requirements faced by the NHS

– reinstate the student nurse’s bursary, ensure negotiations with regards to changes or contracts are conducted with both the BMA and the RCN

10.  EQUALITY IN THE MEDIA – How will you hold the media up to scrutiny and challenge the reductive gender stereotyping which it perpetuates? How will you act to end the attempts to suppress women’s and minority voices on social media?

– update ASA standards to disallow airbrushing of models, or allowing adverts with models of an unhealthy weight in order to not encourage these images as one of something which should be attained to

– if adverts do use unhealthy weight models, or programmes which show abuse towards either gender are show, there should be better warnings in place before the broadcast

– disallow programmes which normalise victim blaming in cases of domestic abuse or rape

– look at strengthening requirements from OFCOM before an idealised image of someone is broadcast – look at ensuring companies use more ‘normal’ weight models, ensure companies cannot ask models to lose weight as a term of employment

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About justRMJ

Theatre Director, Artistic Director of Just Jones &, a touring theatre company (www.justjonestheatre.org.uk). Co-Chair of What's Next?-Lewisham, part of a national movement to place arts and culture at the heart of public conversations. Inhabitant and co-creator of the Happy City, freecycler, gardener and Action Learning Facilitator. Governor at Sydenham School, Trustee at Oily Cart. Founder member of the Women's Equality Party and candidate in the GLA election and first-ever WEP local council candidate in Brockley, Lewisham in 2016. Standing again in 2018. Blogging about all and some of those things, not necessarily in that order.
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