Thank you to Natalie for responding to our questions. Natalie is the Green party candidate for West Worcestershire.
1. A Caring Economy
What will you do to support carers – professional and family-based – and how will your social care policy understand their work as a vital social investment rather than as a financial drain? What will you do to build a caring economy?
I believe we should 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 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. Carer’s Allowance, should also be more flexible so that it can aid 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. The Green Party would work towards restoring the funding for those frontline services which have borne the brunt of the cuts.
- Work towards integrating both social care and health care services in order to better support our carers, and to ease the burden on the healthcare services.
- Build 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, remove the bedroom tax which is undoubtedly discriminatory towards carers and disabled people.
- Furthermore, when considering housing, we should also ensure that 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. We understand that it is fundamentally important to ensure that those fleeing an abusive situation are supported so that they do not have to return to such a situation.
- Reverse 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?
In the seats where the Green Party have a real chance of winning, Brighton Pavilion, Bristol South, The Isle of Wight and Sheffield, our candidates are all women.
There are several keys points that Green Party MP’s would address as a priority, if elected.
- Ensure any trade deals which are made in the event of Brexit do no impact negatively on either women.
- 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.
- Scrutinise any deal which is made in the event of Brexit, to ensure that it does not disrupt the peace process made through the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
3: Women & 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?
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley spent time with refugees, many of them unaccompanied children, in The Calais Jungle, days before it was demolished. What he experienced will stay with him for a life time.
The Green Party in Malvern Hills works closely in support of The Malvern Welcomes Group.
The Green Party would:
- 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 that 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?
I think that the way that the WASPI Women have been treated has been appalling.
In terms of specific policy, The Green Party would commit to the following;
- Introduce universal, free childcare for all. This 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. This would be brought in to cover the end of paid parental leave after six/nine months.
- Require that the gender pay gap be broken down further when reported – eg. Age and ethnicity and bring down the requirements for reporting to companies employing more than 50 people, not just large companies with more than 250 employees.
- Improve the laws protecting women who lose their jobs when they go on maternity leave so that they protect women from the time that they announce their pregnancy.
- Introduce in a £10 / hour Living Wage.
- Ensure that security provision seeks to reduce income inequality rather than propagate it it.
- Review the tax relief for single pensions and work 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?
I have worked in education for over 10 years. I have direct experience of the issue you you point out.
Fundamentally, to address these issues, The Green Party would:
- Provide 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.
- Ensure that Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is delivered to children throughout their educational life so they always have access to advice on respect within relationships, gender identity, sexual-related topics and issues such as that of consent.
- Ensure that sexism is treated similarly as bullying within a school setting, with a view to eradicating it from the schooling and education system.
- Personally, as a former Careers Information Advice and Guidance Professional, I would reintroduce specialist impartial careers advice to all students. I feel that this would help to challenge some of the existing stereotypes regarding a woman’s career options.
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?
This is an issue where I see many synergies between Green Party and WEP Policy and would welcome the opportunity to work together.
Specific Green Party Policy centres around;
- Introducing a system whereby either parent can take 9 months paid leave from work and free childcare provision to allow both parents to work, if required, when this period ends.
- Ensuring that self-employed parents to have the same rights and protections as employed parents. Bizarrely they don’t at the moment, so many feel under pressure to find employment before pregnancy, when self-employment may suit the individual better.
- We would make sure baby changing facilities are available for both genders in public settings.
- We would better protect cohabiting couples with children who are not married and give them the same access to mediation and other services.
- We would review the current arrangements for payment of child maintenance to investigate whether there is a way to have payments underwritten in case of the possibility of an absent parent being unable to make a payment. This would relieve potential financial burden on the caring parent in the case of missed payment.
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?
I have worked with Worcester Rape Crisis as a volunteer, so have seen how important it is for women to be able to access help and support when they need it. This could be immediately following an incident or 30-40 years later/
In terms of policy, The Green Party would:
- Ensure that 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.
- Provide better funded provision for services for advocacy and support for women who have been raped, ensuring that it is available for all, regardless of their BAME status or age.
- Monitor the perpetrators of violence and harassment so that they are more restricted from accessing their victim once they have been convicted, if jail sentences have not been given.
- Provide better services for male victims of domestic abuse so that 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. In many cases the needs for both genders suffering from abuse differ and this should be reflected in the services offered.
- Reintroduce legal aid for anyone suffering from domestic abuse. Alongside this we would provide better training for officers and officials dealing with abuse cases. I think that it is pertinent that those accused of domestic abuse are not allowed to cross-examine their victim in court.
- We would work towards ending FGM on a national and international scale.
- Decriminalise prostitution, recognising it as a valid form of work, and protect those working in the industry. Any money raised from taxing of the sex industry should be used to fund an exit programme from the industry.
- Properly educate children and young people about sexual consent.
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?
As a manager in my day job and a newly elected District Councillor, I have witnessed gender imbalance and will be working hard to redress the balance.
Specifically, The Green Party would:
- Introduce ‘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 applying for the role.
- Seek to empower women to feel more inspired and encouraged to take up high posts, or positions in politics. As I previously mentioned, this empowerment should come at an early age through impartial Careers Information, Advice and Guidance by well trained professionals. education.
- There are many countries which have representative democracies, particularly in Scandinavia. We should learn form these examples and adapt our systems accordingly.
- We would make it illegal for companies to have all-male boards and chairs.
- We would enforce existing laws against gender discrimination, especially for those who work part-time.
- Encourage a system where people are judged on their merits and abilities, not their gender.
- Reform the voting system, including making it more accessible by more introducing 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?
The Green Party would:
- Facilitate an inquiry into why there are such inequalities in healthcare.
- Put an end to the models of research which perpetuates a bias towards men
i.e human models used for research were male, or not enough females took part in the research. This would recognise there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be used for medical and healthcare research.
- Ensure that there is universal access to sexual health services, alongside universal access to reproductive advice for both genders. Everyone should have access to free contraception as well as free emergency contraception if required.
- Decriminalise abortion in the whole of the UK, recognising that women have the right to choose.
- A better integrated health and social care system would ensure that all needs are cared for, and no requirements are missed. In my opinion, a more concerted effort should be put into prevention and education, rather than intervention.
- Ensure that the NHS, our national treasure, is adequately funded, free at the point of use, and protected from a creeping privatisation.
- Ensure that mental health is treated with parity to physical health.
- End the 1% freeze on public sector pay.
- Reinstate the student nurses bursary and ensure that all 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?
You may be aware that Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has been an active campaigner for the ‘No More Page 3’ Campaign. If elected i would join her in fighting for an end to the objectification of women.
Generally speaking, The Green Party would;
- Update ASA standards to disallow the undisclosed airbrushing of models, and adverts featuring models of an unhealthy weight, so as to not encourage women to aspire to such images.
- Strengthen the current OFCOM legislation around the broadcasting of idealised images. Push companies use more ‘normal’ weight models and ensure that companies cannot ask models to lose weight as a term of employment.
You may be aware that we recently launched a Women’s Manifesto which I am positive will answer any unanswered questions you may have.
I hope that The Green Party and WEP continue to work together for a fairer, more equal society.