Thursday, 15 September 2011

Women's 'issues' - lets ask a 'group of no 10 women' what they are...

Not being a Guardian reader I didn't see this leaked report yesterday but honestly, wow!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/interactive/2011/sep/13/leaked-memo-women-coalition-government

Some of the ideas in there are good, even if they are u-turns (like revisiting failure to criminalise forced marriage) but other bits are frankly ludicrous as serious policy to remove the disproportionate effect that this government has had on women ("Give universal credit to women as the default" - "probably largely symbolic").

What worries me in particular is the methodology they've used to generate these policy proposals "the group of cabinet office and number 10 women we assembled".  They do acknowledge that this wasn't a statistically valid sample but honestly, if the government is serious about a change of tack to consider the needs of women it might be a good idea to ask some who don't work in Westminster in the heart of the government.

I know that this is only one memo but it smacks of a government making it up as they go along.  A government that claims to be 'the most family friendly ever' (as well as the 'greenest government ever', remember that?) ought to be thinking more seriously about family issues and if they are serious about issues that affect women they could do more than talk about communication and tone.

One policy idea I'm willing to throw in for free is to reconsider the unfair and sudden hit that women between born in 1953 and 1954 will take to their pensions.  They are a group who don't have big pension pots generally - having often have or had caring responsibilities and they are not being given time to adjust their plans.   Of course the document gives doesn't even mention this, which if you are a woman born in those years has got to be a slap in the face:  
 
"In addition, we are clear that there are a range of policies we have pursued
as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests,
disproportionately, including:
1 Public sector pay and pensions (particularly as contrasted with -
mostly male - bankers, in the popular narrative)
0 Tuition fees
Abolition of Child Trust Funds
Changes to child tax credit and the childcare element
0 Changes to child benefit
0 Rising cost of living
0 Lone patent obligations"
All that and more.