Category Archives: Current affairs and politics

More rumblings about job discrimination…..

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I am sorry to keep banging on about discrimination in the job market however, extensive global research which is easily available to read on the internet confirms I have been served a double whammy in the `least likely to be offered a job` stakes since a) I am a woman and b) I am nearly sixty three. Age discrimination in the workplace seems to set in big time once an individual has reached the age of forty so when you hit your sixties, the chances of obtaining an interview are really very slim.

I have been away from the workplace since February having treatment for cancer. Now I have been given the all clear (thank you God) I am raring to go back to work. It is very evident from the comments of some of my family and friends that they think I am bonkers but there you are, I have some valuable skills and a wealth of knowledge that I wish to use to support people who are less fortunate than I and I hope to continue working until the fat lady sings. Since my diagnosis, I have filled out eleven job applications, each one taking up lots of hours and two to three days of my time.

The law states that it is discriminatory to exclude someone from an interview on account of their age. Most applications have a monitoring form which prospective employers assure prospective employees, is detached from paperwork so that no-one is aware of your age. This is a daft way to go about the business of fairness however because most employers also ask for an extensive work resume going back through time to the individuals first job. In my case this spans nearly forty five years and many different roles so it doesn`t take a mathematical genius to work it out.

It is ironic that all of the jobs I have applied for are within the caring sector and all of them focus on people who are marginalised, disadvantaged or treated unfairly in some way. The Equality Act 2010 defines cancer as a disability and for this reason alone I should reasonably expect to be afforded a guaranteed interview. Current legislation does not address this point however, it is simply good practice.The Act further states that my prospective employers should not ask questions about my health. Instead what occurs is that application forms ask you to explain any breaks in your work profile. In my case it is nine months so what am I supposed to do? Lie? I have generally stated I was receiving treatment and I am now well because employment law states that I must not mislead my prospective employer. Talk about a Catch 22!

I did have an interview with one notable charity who rang me four days later to say the following;

“We were all so impressed with your interview, the service users really liked you too, you are eminently employable so……… we`ve given it to somebody else.”

Another charity offered me an interview the day that I received my diagnosis. I was in no fit state to attend so I cancelled. They were very kind and encouraged me to apply for any opportunities in the future. So I did, twice and received no further invites. It seemed such a waste of my time which is even more precious to me now than previously. Mostly though, I just don`t hear back from my applications.  The many millions of people all over the world who, like me are genuinely seeking fulfilling employment already understand how incredibly disheartening this can be. There are examples on the internet of people who have taken a case to court where they feel they have been discriminated against in the work application process, failing to achieve an interview. It is almost impossible to evidence this and it is not a path I want to tread.

My Employment Support Allowance finishes this week and now I am well, I must sign on for Job Seekers Allowance. I have to evidence that I am genuinely seeking employment because if I don`t, the allowance stops. I hope I can find work as a care worker or a support worker with the client group I love to work with, people with physical disabilities, mental health issues, learning disabilities or older adults. My point is that regardless of age, my gender and the fact that I have had cancer, I rather hoped that my accrued skills and experience would be recognised, valued and employed to their fullest extent. I also have a theory that because older people are far less likely to be offered interviews for work they can accomplish, we are forced to look for employment we know we are likely to have more success in obtaining i.e. work which pays far less money. You can call me cynical and I write this with massive respect for all of those people who are working incredibly hard for very little money.

On a lighter note to conclude; I am currently being spot purchased (which is a bit like a zero hours contract) to do some advocacy work, usually a few hours a week, via a wonderful advocacy charity who have been my employers in the past. Unlike the other charities I have recently applied to they remain incredibly supportive of me and my current circumstances, they are absolutely stunning in their policy to be positive about disadvantaged people. They evidence all the time, that they genuinely care and most importantly, they do not discriminate.

If you think I am bitter or deluding myself, I`m not. In the past I have generally walked into jobs, I have been head hunted on three occasions. I am saddened and disappointed.

So rock on. Rant over. I think I am going to open up a house of ill repute……..

Professional Skills Test, don`t make me laugh…….

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Here`s how I think it went……..

This year my daughter, who has been an assistant teacher for several years, was given the opportunity to become a fully-fledged teacher. In order to achieve this and increase her salary from the assistant`s starting point of just over £13,000 per annum to a salary which will enable her to properly support her four children who are still at home, she had to take a Professional Skills Test via Learn Direct who are part of the Department for Education.

The test comes in two parts, numeracy and literacy and any person wishing to become a teacher, has to take it. The first attempt at each test is free of charge, subsequent ones are not. If you don’t pass within three attempts, then you must wait 24 months before you can book any further tests – this means starting the teacher training application process all over again.

My daughter passed the literacy test with flying colours.

She then had to attend a Learn Direct centre where the numeracy test was being held and on the first occasion she failed by one mark.  The second time she took the test she had to travel to Exeter, nearly two hundred miles from where she lives. I`m not sure why it was Exeter but I think it relate`s to the dates individuals are able to attend. She had to fork out train fare to go and was anxious because in one section of the numeracy test you are limited to just 18 seconds to give your answer before the computer moves you on to the next question.

On the second occasion my daughter again failed by one mark. The guy at the centre said to her and I quote, “Don`t worry, lots of people fail by one mark, ” which is interesting since after the first test, all subsequent ones are paid for. Undaunted, she put in to resit the test for a third time however Learn Direct refused permission stating that their records showed she had already taken it. They had clearly made a mistake which my daughter was able to evidence. Learn Direct eventually apologised but it had taken them so long to sort the matter out that the date she had originally booked had gone by and my daughter missed it.

She finally managed to book again for the third and final time and on this occasion the centre was in Leicester. She was supported by a tutor who advised her to to revise and practice tests on the internet and was told that many of the questions she was revising would come up in the actual test. She revised solidly into the night for three weeks prior to the test. She practiced many, many times until she was confident she could do it. When it came to it, none of the questions she was advised to revise came up in the third test. None of them. She failed by just four marks. She cannot take the test again for two more years.

My daughter has a degree in law, which she obtained while raising five children largely on her own. She has been a highly respected and successful Assistant Teacher for a number of years teaching children with special needs. it is utter madness that this ill thought out test should prevent my conscientious and talented daughter from achieving her desire and it is a tragedy that many children will now not have the golden opportunity to be taught by her.  It is they who will be losing out on her passion and her drive, all because of this ridiculous approach to proof of ability.

Whose idea was it to create this daft, standardised test which gives every person`s unique brain and ways of working out problems, just eighteen seconds to come up with the correct answer and how many more talented potential teachers is the UK losing out on while this idiotic practice is thought acceptable?

I welcome comments from any person reading this and then please share. I want this test to be urgently reviewed and will not rest with this simple blog.

Thank you.

Rape as a strategy in war.

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Many people would argue it is laudable that celebrity Angelina Jolie should speak out as she has done recently, on behalf of victims of rape. In particular she emphasises those women who have been raped in war torn countries. She and her one of her cohorts UK Foreign Secretary William Hague have recently brought together people from across the world and hosted a summit calling for rape to be made a war crime.

William Hague held the gravest expression as he solemnly announced that rape has been used as a weapon of war over the past few decades and he is, in my view hopelessly optimistic as he recently spoke on BBC`s Radio 4…..

“If we can show militias and armies that they do not do this, even in a conflict in the future, that will affect how men treat women or any vulnerable person in the future,” he told BBC`s Woman’s Hour.

Well I hate to be a kill joy Mr. Hague but rape has been used as a war strategy to demoralise entire continents since the dawn of time. In fact every single historical era documents rape as a weapon of warfare back as far as the Roman Republic.

Years ago, I worked for Birmingham Rape Crisis Centre and frequently engaged in public awareness-raising about the myths and facts surrounding rape. I would bring up this very topic with every public speaking engagement I attended, it isn`t anything new. Rape Crisis centres were talking about this way back in the nineteen seventies. Few people took any notice of us forty years ago and I doubt if many will take any proper notice of William Hague and Ms. Jolie now. Some may offer a tokenistic viewpoint but we can all of us guess at what goes on behind closed doors in other countries as well as in our own. I can`t honestly see leaders in Yemen, Somalia. Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Columbia scratching their chins and smilingly comment,

“Blimey it`s Angelina Jolie and William Hague oh well, in that case…..”

I do realise that Ms. Jolie is a wealthy and powerful woman whom some people admire however, I fail to see how even her influence will sway the army leaders of Africa and many other countries to alter their strategy. If we haven`t changed attitudes since 500 BC then I am under no illusion that we will change them now.

I get cross. Rape Crisis Centres the world over are still struggling for much needed funding to continue the marvellous work that they do. In the UK men who are found guilty of rape (unless they are of African or Caribbean origin of course when they will be over represented in Britain`s prison system) are still more likely to be acquitted. It puzzles me that William Hague should be debating measures to punish those found guilty in foreign lands and I wonder – what is Mr. Hague doing to support those men and women who have survived rape and other sexual offences, here at home?

We have made some progress globally, In 2008 the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution which noted that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In 2013 the U.N. Security Council adopted a broad resolution on rape in war, demanding the complete and immediate end of all acts of sexual violence by all parties to armed conflict. The resolution noted that sexual violence can constitute a crime against humanity and a contributing act to genocide, it called for improved monitoring of sexual violence in conflict, and urged the U.N. and donors to assist survivors.

Many recommendations have been made and yet very little changes. Very little has changed since I and my liberated sisters first began raising awareness of rape way back in the 1970`s.

Some women survivors of Africa say that it would be good if countries would fund them after such crimes so that they can recover and move on. It would be good if Rape Crisis centres in Britain could be funded too.

The World Health Organisation reports that every year 150 million women and girls are raped in other countries. 73 million men and boys and we must assume that is a conservative number since many will not report the crime, so we have a long, very long way to go. What punishment would you suggest Mr. Hague, Ms Jolie and how would you administer it with such unimaginably high numbers as these?

I can`t help feeling that William Hague and Angelina Jolie appear to be just a tiny bit conceited, a little bit vainglorious but perhaps I am being my usual, cynical self…..

Why I oppose forced adoption.

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As a parents` advocate, I work almost exclusively with families whose child or children have been removed into care by the family courts.  For many of the parents that I work with, after a year or so in temporary foster care the children are either placed for long term fostering or if they are young enough they will be placed for adoption.  I know there are lots of families out there who make very good adoptive parents, however statistically, research suggests that children who are adopted are more vulnerable to a variety of social and psychological problems which emerge as they grow up and begin to properly understand the implications of being adopted.

I am strongly against what here in the UK we call forced adoption that is, taking a child for adoption without parental consent.  The UK is one of only a very few countries who do this, Australia operates under a similar, draconian policy.  America pretends that it has revised its policies, but in reality things haven’t changed at all. Young, single and poor mothers from all of these countries still say that social workers ask them what they have to offer in comparison to the financially better off, married couples who want to adopt their children.  Surely this is a form of social control? 

This is not to say that I oppose adoption per se, I don`t.  If parents are neglecting, physically hurting or sexually abusing their children then of course those children should be removed until we can be certain that the parents will keep them safe.  If parents for whatever reasons wish to consent to their children being adopted, that is an entirely different matter. It is forced and coerced adoption that troubles me because for so many reasons, children need to know who their birth parents are and in the UK, once you are adopted that`s it.  You don`t get to have any further contact with your birth parents except in very rare cases.

Back in 1998, an American researcher called Ginni Snodgrass produced a paper which points out that there are vulnerabilities shared by all adoptees. In those most vulnerable, a distinct pattern of behaviours can be seen. Some have labelled this the “Adopted Child Syndrome.”  She writes that in America mental health professionals are surprised at the alarmingly high number of their patients who are adopted and that studies show an average of 25% to 35% of the young people in residential treatment centres are adoptees. This was 17 times the norm in 1998.

Unsurprisingly, research in the UK also concludes that adoptees are more likely to have difficulties with drug and alcohol abuse as well as eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, infertility, suicidal thoughts and untimely pregnancies and globally, high numbers of adoptees are sent to correctional schools.

If you`d like to read the whole paper, here is a link to it:

Thousands of families in the UK are broken up every year by our closed family courts.  This means that the public do not get to hear what happens to families once the adoption ball is rolling and if families speak out in the press, they are punished, sometimes by being put into prison.  That is awful.  It means that Local Authorities can get away with lying about parents in court and as if this isn`t bad enough, with very poor social work practice.  I thought the UK was a democracy, but I am wrong.  In the UK family courts can and do order newly born babies to be taken from their mothers and given up to be adopted by strangers. Parents are not allowed their democratic right to speak about this even though Article 10 of the Human Rights Act guarantees freedom of speech.  This is why I support a revision of current legislation.  I think that family courts should be open and just as with a criminal case, decisions about parents should be made by a panel of Jo and Josephine public and not by a single judge.

When children are removed into care in the UK, often social workers will arrive at the home with at least 2 police officers and take the children away.  Naturally, the children will be crying and terribly upset and will be able to see that their parents are being physically restrained.  During contact sessions, conversations between relatives and children are strictly censored. No mention of the case or coming home is allowed or contact is stopped.  This can lead children to believe their parents do not want them to come home.  Children in care suffer an awful lot of guilt and while in foster care, children are frequently not allowed a mobile phone or access to a computer which isolates them even further from their birth families.

200 parents in the UK are jailed every year for going to the press about forced adoption.  The UK is the only country in the world that gags parents in this way.  Harriet Harman was questioned about this when she was minister for children, she said that she did not know what the figures were.

The UK is the only country in Europe (except Croatia) to permit forced adoption.

The UK is the only country in Europe to censor conversations between parents and children in care. Parents cannot become emotional or discuss the court case, not even with older children and if they do then contact can be stopped. Our current system is in my view, very cruel and punishes not just the parents but the children too.  Mr Justice Hedley who has presided over countless care and adoption proceedings in this country says the following; 

“Many parents are hypochondriacs, many parents are criminals or benefit cheats, many parents discriminate against ethnic or sexual minorities, many parents support vile political parties or belong to unusual or militant religions. All of these follies are visited upon their children, who may well adopt or ‘model’ them in their own lives but those children could not be removed for those reasons.”

Related article and websites.

My grateful thanks to Ian Joseph for permitting me to print here, some of his views on this subject.

http://www.forced-adoption.com/reforms.asp

Amendment to the Act

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The abortion debate rumbles on.

 Many years ago when I was in my teens and early twenties, I worked for the largest abortion agency in the UK, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Over the years I had a number of roles there including pregnancy testing and giving results. It often seemed to me that those women who were desperate to become pregnant had negative tests and those who were not had the opposite. Happily, one of my enduring memories of pregnancy testing was seeing a lady whose two small children had tragically died in a house fire. She had been trying to get pregnant for two years and finally got her longed for positive result. We all cried tears of joy with her.
 
I also ran the contraceptive clinic at BPAS for a while, doing some innovative and sterling work in schools and colleges to prevent pregnancy amongst teenagers. The last role I had there before I left was in the fertility clinic where I coded and stored sperm for artificial insemination by donor. (AID.) It always saddens me when I read strong criticism of BPAS from journalists who only see it as a provider of abortion, it is so much more than that. I won’t go into the arguments for and against termination of pregnancy. I confess I have always been ambivalent about abortion. I believe in a woman’s right to choose but I do think we should have much more post operative support available since contrary to the opinion of some, it is never an easy decision for a woman to make to have an abortion and I know that women can and do grieve terribly after terminating their pregnancies.

 
 My mother grew up in the nineteen hundreds when for nearly three quarters of the century abortion was illegal in the UK. She clearly recalled seeing a young woman being carried away on her street atop a stretcher, bleeding profusely after some botched up job she had suffered at the hands of an illegal abortionist. That is what I fear returning to.

 
 Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP, and former Labour Minister Frank Field want an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill stipulating that women must be counselled for abortion in the first instance by their GP. The pair argue that counselling of pregnant women must be taken out of the hands of private clinics and given to independent professionals with no financial stake in the outcome of the woman’s decision. But what if your GP’s religious beliefs mean that he or she is unable to support you to have an abortion? I remember many young women over the years, coming along to BPAS for advice when they were 12 – 16 weeks pregnant having been stalled as long as possible by their GP. How wicked is that?

 
 But the real agenda here and without a doubt is very different to simply stating that all women seeking abortion should be able to access independent counselling. Having refused to be public about who is financing their campaign, it now comes to light that funding is coming their way from a group of individuals who are devout Christians. No surprises there then and I think we can be sure that Ms. Dorries and Mr. Field’s hidden agenda is to ensure that women are delayed, confused and refused abortions or at the very least, have pressure put upon them to continue their pregnancy.

 
 We shall know the result on Wednesday this week. The amendment does not have a lot of support. Abortion is already thoroughly regulated in the UK, and like any medical procedure, requires the informed consent of the patient before it can be carried out. Healthcare providers are already legally obliged to provide the patient with all necessary information in order to make an informed decision. However, so strong are the arguments for and against abortion, it polarises public opinion. I have no doubt the debate will rumble on a great deal longer……