GWS is an international network campaigning for a living wage for mothers & other carers, we have been calling for a women's strike since 8 March 2000. GWS is co-ordinated by the Wages for Housework Campaign & Selma James
day and in every emergency, unwaged or low waged caregivers, urban and rural,
mostly women, often immigrant women, struggle to protect and care for people of
every age and condition. But this work is kept invisible and therefore there is never a relief package from
governments for caregivers, only more work,
especially with the advent of Covid-19.
In 1980, the ILO estimated
that women did 2/3 of the world’s work for 5% of its income. Today women and girls do more than three-quarters of all unpaid
care work – a total of 12.5 billion
hours a day.
coronavirus pandemic came on top of the climate pandemic, the poverty pandemic,
the war pandemic and the rape and domestic violence pandemics which have hit
single mother families, ill, disabled and older people hardest. It is exposing weaknesses in our ability to resist
and survive physically and financially – from immune systems already
compromised by poverty, discrimination, pollution, war, occupation,
displacement and other violence to inadequate healthcare and inadequate
incomes, especially in the Global South, in communities of colour in the North,
and among refugees everywhere.
In response to the virus,
country after country has been shut down – from workplaces to schools and
transport – and proposals to replace lost wages are being debated. These
drastic measures show that governments can take
swift action and find money to deal with “emergencies” – if they want to.
At this critical moment, we must insist collectively on what we need. We fear
that governments may use increased emergency powers to transfer wealth from
taxpayers to corporations, and even impose further controls, surveillance and
restrictions on our movements and our lives well after this pandemic is over.
The market values unwaged
work at $10.8 trillion but never suggests that women should get any of it.
Instead we are advised to get an education and a better paid job. We of course
have a right to that. But it does not deal with the
indispensable work of life and survival –
from breastfeeding to elder care. Only increasing the status, power and income
of caregivers can do that.
In the 80s, the Women Count – Count Women’s Work petition issued by the International Wages for
Housework Campaign gave voice of a hidden mass movement for recognition of this
work. It was signed by 1,200 organizations representing millions of women
worldwide, resulting in the 1995 UN decision that governments measure and value
unwaged work in national accounts.
The Green New Deal for Europe takes
this forward. It looks at what work is needed for social and environmental
wellbeing, and what work is not, and proposes a Care Income as a key part of
its programme for climate justice. At last protecting people and
protecting the Earth can be equated and prioritized over the uncaring market –
a major step in transforming the world and saving it. We need this everywhere.
demand a CARE INCOME across the planet for all those, of every gender, who care
for people, the urban and rural environment, and the natural world.
The coronavirus pandemic comes on top of the
climate pandemic, the poverty pandemic and the war pandemics which have hit
single mother families, ill, disabled and older people hardest. It is exposing weaknesses in our ability to resist
and survive physically and financially – from immune systems already
compromised by poverty, pollution, war, occupation and displacement to
inadequate healthcare and inadequate incomes, especially in the Global South,
in communities of colour in the North, and among refugees everywhere.
Every day and in every emergency, unwaged or low waged
caregivers, mostly women, often immigrant women, struggle to protect and care
for people of every age and condition. But this work is kept invisible and
therefore there is never a relief package from governments for caregivers, only
1980, the ILO estimated that women did 2/3 of the world’s work for 5% of its
income. Over 1,500 organizations representing millions of women worldwide
signed the petition Women Count – Count Women’s
Work as the only way to make our contribution visible. In 1995 we
won the UN commitment that governments would measure and value unwaged work in
national accounts. But still todaywomen and girls do more than three-quarters of all
unpaid care work with a total of 12.5bn hours a day.
market values this at $10.8tn but never suggests that women should get any of
they tell us to get an education and a better paid job. We all have a right to
that. But it would not deal with the
indispensable work of life and survival – from breastfeeding to elder
care. Only increasing the status, power and income of caregivers can do that.
response to the virus, country after country is being shut down – from
workplaces to schools and transport – and proposals to replace lost wages are
being debated. These drastic measures show that governments
can take swift action and find money to deal with “emergencies” – if they want
to. Now is the time to spell out what we collectively need, and
insist on it. If we don’t, governments may use their increased powers to
transfer wealth from taxpayers to corporations, and impose further controls,
surveillance and restrictions on our movements and our lives well after this
pandemic is over.
we have a need and right to is a CARE INCOME for
all those, of every gender, who “care for
people, the urban environment, and the natural world”. The Green New
Deal for Europe, to which we have contributed, begins to look at what work we
do and why. It proposes a Care Income as a key part of its programme for
climate justice. For decades we have been campaigning for a living wage
for mothers and other carers, North and South. A Care Income is a welcome
development. At last protecting people and protecting Mother Earth can be
equated and prioritized over the uncaring market – a major step in transforming
the world and saving it.
On 20 March 2020, in response to the health,
climate, poverty and war pandemics, in a webinar hosted within the Commission
on the Status of Women, women from across the globe call for a Care Income, not only for Europe but for caregivers everywhere.
Invitation to a Webinar From Coronavirus and Beyond Valuing Caregiving — the Unwaged Work that Protects People and the Environment. The workshop we planned for the 64th UN Commission on the Status of Women has even more urgency now as the global pandemic has exposed how central caregiving is to life and survival, and how much caregivers are relied on for services governments are not providing. But where is the relief package for caregivers? We hope you can join in the webinar and follow us at: #careincomenow
Selma James – founder of the Intl Wages for Housework Campaign and coordinator of the Global Women’s Strike from London; Liz Hilton, Empower (Thailand); Leddy Mozombite, Domestic Workers Federation and Global Women’s Strike (Peru); Peggy O’Mara, former editor of Mothering Magazine; Margaret Prescod, Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike and Intl Black Women for Wages for Housework; Rev Liz Theoharis, joint coordinator Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival and the Kairos Center; Chaired by Phoebe Jones, Women in Dialogue. Q&A to follow the presentations.
The Webinar aims to discuss and gather support for ● global implementation of measuring & valuing unwaged caregiving work, including the impact of COVID-19 on caregivers’ work ● accessing resources for survival and beyond – free healthcare, paid maternity leave, benefits, piped water & more for this work which is central to combating poverty & climate change ● campaigning for a Care Income for all caring for people, communities & the environment (Green New Deal for Europe, 2019).
Additional sponsors: Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, Global Women’s Strike, Intl Prostitutes Collective, Empower, Women Against Rape, Queerstrike, WinVisible, Payday men’s network.
In 1972, a paper I wrote was discussed at the women’s liberation conference in Manchester. It had six demands: the right to work less; the right to have or not to have children (rather than just abortion); equal pay for all; free community-controlled nurseries and childcare (rather than 24/7 state childcare); an end to price rises; and the right to a guaranteed income, for women and men, and to wages for housework. It named my future.
I had the example of single mothers on benefits. They had a lower standard of living than women with male partners but they were freer because the money they had was their own. They were the backbone of the women’s movement but not a dominant voice.
The dominant voice at the conference (which was white and largely middle class) was that wages for housework would institutionalise women in the home and that going out to work was the beginning of liberation – no reference to wages or working conditions. As a young mother, I had waitressed, packed sweets, and wired and soldered TVs on an assembly line. Liberation didn’t look like that!
Wages for housework’s first campaign was to keep family allowance (as child benefit was called) in women’s hands; the government intended to transfer it to men’s pay packets. Signing petitions in front of post offices, women were adamant that “this is the only money I can call my own”. The government retreated and mothers kept their family allowance, their little bit of wages for housework.
But where had this money come from? Eleanor Rathbone, independently wealthy suffragette and MP, had fought for decades to win it. “Nothing can justify the subordination of one group of producers – the mothers – to the rest, and their deprivation of all share of their own in the wealth of a community which depends on them for its very existence.”
Maude Royden, who supported Rathbone, was outraged that giving birth to and raising children was trivialised: “Our object will not be to enable mothers to earn their living, but to ensure that since they have earned it they should get it. The one really fundamental difference between men and women is a difference, it is certainly not an inferiority. For women to try to reduce it to a trifle when it is really so great a thing is an acceptance of masculine standards too dishonouring and too artificial to endure.”
It is extraordinary that those who reproduce the human race are still unsupported and impoverished for this fundamental biological and societal work. Unwaged, in a world dominated by money.
As a result, like it or not, to escape dependence and poverty, women went out to the double day. Mostly not careers, and with austerity, they were even forced to subsidise low wages at food banks.
But women everywhere have fought for money for reproductive work, from maternity leave to paid time off to care for sick relatives.
In the US, a mass movement led by black single mothers (never acknowledged as part of the “women’s movement”) fought for welfare. Spokeswoman Johnnie Tillmon wrote in 1972: “If I were president, I would … go a long way toward liberating every woman. I’d just issue a proclamation that ‘women’s’ work is real work. I’d start paying women a living wage for doing the work we are already doing – childraising and house-keeping.”
We took our campaign to the United Nations, publicising the ILO figure that “women do two-thirds of the world’s work for 5 per cent of its income”. Over 1,500 organisations representing millions of women worldwide signed our petition Women Count – Count Women’s Work. In 1995 we won the UN commitment to measure and value unwaged work in national accounts. (The Commission on the Status of Women was to review implementation this month but was postponed due to the health emergency.)
In January, an Oxfam report said that women and girls do more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work, contributing an estimated £8.28 trillion to the global economy with a total of 12.5 billion hours a day.
Like other reports, it urges us to get an education and thus a better-paid job rather than urging governments to pay us for this mountain of work. Women did not form a movement to eliminate caring but the dependence, isolation, servitude, invisibility and almost universal discrimination that society imposes on the unwaged carer.
The climate emergency clarifies much. The Green New Deal for Europe, of which we are part, proposes a care income for all who do caring work for people and planet – a welcome update on wages for housework.
This is light years ahead of a basic income (which hides the unwaged work women are already doing, leaves the market in charge, and may be used to abolish benefits); and it is more respectful of mutually caring relationships than parking children, the disabled and elderly people with “professionals” in order to “liberate” us, as some women economists urge.
A care income has been embraced by our network, from farmers, human rights defenders and sex workers in Southeast Asia to domestic workers in Peru. At last, protecting people and protecting Mother Earth are equated and prioritised over the uncaring market – a major step in transforming the world and saving it.
Selma James is founder of the Wages for Housework campaign which coordinates the Global Women’s Strike, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. WS and other organisations based at Crossroads will celebrate International Women’s Day on Sunday with an Open Day from 12-6pm, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX More info here
IT’S almost 50 years since I marched, with thousands of others, behind the women’s liberation banner. Groups formed all over London and the UK, discussing what in our lives we wanted to change. Everything! Most wanted to destroy all the hierarchies in society. In fact, we considered for the first time how many hierarchies there were – not only of gender, but of class, race, nationality, age, disability, sexuality… Everything was up for grabs.
By 1972 a few of us had concluded that women’s unwaged caring work was central to the low status of women in every sphere. While we produced and cared for all the workers in the world, and therefore gave birth to the economy, our unwaged caring work kept us poor and dependent on men. We were often asked by husbands then, “What did you do all day?” as we put dinner on the table while tending a crying baby. We worked very hard at what nobody considered work.
In 1972 I called women together for what became the International Wages for Housework Campaign; in 1975 we opened our first women’s centre in Camden – a little squat which ultimately became today’s Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town.
In 1980 we went to the United Nations Women’s Decade conference in Copenhagen. We learnt that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had compared the work that women and men did, and concluded that “Women do two-thirds of the world’s work for 5 per cent of its income”.
We said “Women Count – Count Women’s Work” and publicised the ILO figures wherever we could. This was a figure of entitlement.
The women from the Global South agreed absolutely. They worked far harder than we did in London, often growing the food they and their families ate. They knew imperialism had plundered their countries so they didn’t have the technology we did – they had to walk to rivers to bring water home or get their girl children to do it.
In 1985 in Nairobi, we won the UN decision that governments should include the value of “unremunerated work in the home, on the land and in the community” in their financial accounts. They did begin to count the work but did not begin to pay us for it.
Quite the opposite. In the UK we lost Income Support which many single mothers had relied on to be financially independent. Those of us who are disabled saw our financial stability slashed under austerity cuts – 86 per cent of which fell on women.
Successive governments insisted we go out to work even for the lowest pay – one reason why more than four million UK children, including 35 per cent of Camden’s children, live in poverty, and be assured their mothers are missing meals to feed them. There are more children in care than for decades, and low-income single mothers are more likely to have their children taken by social services than to get the help they are entitled to by law.
Yet there are now 220 women MPs and nearly 30 per cent of FTSE100 board positions are held by women. But what’s in it for us?
The hierarchies remain, shifting and not always for the better as the rich are richer and the poor poorer, and wars are raging with weapons poor people pay for.
We’ve been fighting to protect our children from the polluted air which makes them ill and sometimes kills them. Now none can avoid facing the climate emergency. That’s why we are part of the Green New Deal for Europe to demand a Care Income for the work of human survival we were never paid for, and the work of halting and undoing the destruction of Mother Earth, South and North, so we can all survive. All genders, all carers, all survivors.
• The Global Women’s Strike and other organisations at Crossroads Women’s Centre will be celebrating International Women’s Day on Sunday March 8, with an Open Day from 12-6pm, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX. All welcome. www.facebook.com/GlobalWomensStrike • Selma James is founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign, and the author of The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community; and Sex, Race and Class – The Perspective of Winning
For International Women’s Day on 8 March, Grazia commissioned an exclusive survey that revealed women are still doing more at home. Writer Sally Howard, whose new book is about all the work women do to keep a household running smoothly, isn’t surprised…
BY SALLY HOWARD | POSTED5 HOURS AGO
On 8 March 2018, a year into my infant son’s life, I decided to go on domestic strike. My direct action was prompted by the shock quadrupling of domestic labour that had arrived, like an unwelcome gift, with my pink-faced newborn: the stacks of milk- sticky laundry; the endless carousel of kitchen and bathroom cleaning ; the tedious mashing and puréeing of baby food.
While my partner Tim and I had prided ourselves on our egalitarianism as childless cohabitees, I was alarmed to find that the lioness’s share of this parenting work had fallen on my aching shoulders.
And I’m not alone in this: studies have found that the arrival of a baby increases the domestic load by around three hours a day, with only 40 minutes of this parent-labour penalty falling to men. Indeed, according to Grazia’s survey, 71% of women said they’d taken more time off work for childcare reasons, the same number said they had organised their child’s last birthday party – and a huge 87% buy most of their children’s clothes.
Worse was the ‘invisible labour’ that accompanied these myriad manual tasks. It was me who was expected to know whether my baby was up-to-date with his inoculations and developmental milestones; it was ‘Mum’ the nosy health visitors addressed their questions to (women lose our given names as soon as we pop out a fresh human being); and me who had to be across such tasks as sending thank-you cards for unwanted babygros and buying biscuits for in-laws’ visits. Child covered in spew and kitchen in disarray? The blame, and judgement, fell at my swollen feet. However many nappies Tim changed, or milk stains he sponged, I was the one – in society’s eyes and in Tim’s – with whom the domestic buck stopped.
Domestic labour has always been a tricky injustice to protest against. It takes place in the privacy of the home, making it difficult for women to see each other doing this work and to collectively acknowledge that men do not share equally in its burden. And there can be dire consequences if we withdraw this labour: children uncared for and vulnerable relatives unfed. Our new cultural awareness of categories of invisible labour, from the mental load of household management to the feminine work of soothing, smiling and chivvying that’s been dubbed ‘emotional labour’, has done little to remedy women’s domestic plight. British women today contribute 20 hours of weekly domestic effort to British men’s 12, a 60% domestic labour gap that hasn’t budged since the 1990s.
In the months leading up to my first strike, I totted up my worth in today’s job categories. My calculation came to a cool £176,667 a year.
So why strike? For all their complexities, housework strikes have a long feminist history. On 24 October 1975, 90% of Iceland’s adult female population left their jobs, their children and their homes and took to the streets for a general strike that was billed as ‘Women’s Day Off’.
Their demands? Equal wages for equal work and a recognition of the 50 hours of unpaid labour that women undertook every week in Icelandic homes. For Icelandic men, the day became known as ‘the Long Friday’. With no women to staff desks and tills, banks, factories and shops were forced to close, as were schools and nurseries – leaving fathers with no choice but to take their children to work. (There were news reports of men bulk-buying colouring crayons and quick-cook sausages.)
Forty-five years after Women’s Day Off, its legacy lives on, with Iceland ranked top in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, an index that examines educational opportunities, life expectancy, pay equity and the average time spent each day on housework.
In the same era, feminists abandoned their domestic duties to march on New York and Washington DC, bearing placards that called out the injustices of what was then dubbed ‘women’s work’: ‘Housewives are unpaid slave labourers!’ ‘Tell him what to do with the broom!’ and, brilliantly, ‘Don’t iron while the strike is hot!’.
American feminist activist group Wages for Housework tried to quantify the financial value of women’s unpaid labour to the economy, figuring that the 1970s housewife’s combined skills of cook/ dietician, domestic cleaner, hostess, book-keeper, party organiser and chauffeur – among other diverse skills – would come to $60,000 a year (£100,000 in today’s money).
In the months leading up to my first strike, I totted up my worth in today’s job categories. My back-of-a-rusk-packet calculation came to a cool £176,667 a year, for cleaning (£19,946), private cheffing (£50,000), advanced PA £35,000), nannying (£34,721) and life-coaching services (£37,000).
So how did my first strike go? The first stumbling block was the date. With Tim at work on International Women’s Day (8 March) and my son not booked into nursery, I was in charge of a small kid with no childcare to hand. Striking on IWD would constitute child neglect and, as I scrambled around for untested babysitters, would supplant my day’s labour with a mental load of administrative chores.
I decided instead on a 9 March private direct action – a home strike! – which extended, in the end, from 8am to 5pm (time of the nursery pick-up), then from 7.15pm onwards. I didn’t tell Tim why our flat had descended into chaos until the following evening, when he confided he’d been quite pleased to cook his own pasta and eat at a Continental hour, but had wondered why Leo had gone to bed in a sleeping bag that smelled ‘more than faintly of piss’. But, after the shock of the strike sunk in, the message landed: I wanted Tim to acknowledge the work that, to many men, registers as non-work – present buying, managing domestic calendars and, among many other tasks, auditioning and arranging childcare.
Women are once more seeing the potential in withdrawing their labour en masse. International Women’s Strike, also known as Paro Internacional de Mujeres, is a global movement that staged its first action on IWD 2018 (when I was busy collecting strewn raisins off the floor of a Lewisham soft-play), with a series of strikes across Spain and South America. In Madrid and Barcelona, male feminists staffed communal nurseries as women marched for recognition of the 26.5 hours of weekly domestic labour Spanish women contribute compared to Spanish men’s 14, and the symbol of the strike, cooking aprons, fluttered from apartment balconies.
What would Britain look like if women downed tools for a day? We might soon find out. On 8 March 2020, tens of thousands of women will gather in London’s Cavendish Square for International Women’s Strike 2020. Dressed in red, #westrike will take place alongside women who are affected by the devaluation of women’s work in the public sphere: care workers, cleaners of hotels and private homes and NHS nurses. Our march is against structural sexism and racism and the lazy assumption that women will always be there to wipe, mop, blow noses and pick up the pieces after men’s actions.
Will you, too, down domestic tools and learn to say a resounding ‘no!’ to the work that’s ascribed to women on the basis of nothing but the shape of our genitals? If a day’s tricky, why not try what Selma James of Wages For Housework calls a ‘small resistance’? Head out for a solo walk, forget about the ironing or sweating over Sunday lunch; bang the pots and pans.
Whatever you do, step away from the squeegee, Grazia comradistas. Don’t iron while the strike’s hot!
Women’s caring role in society means we end up doing a ‘double day’ whether we like it or not, writes SELMA JAMES
WHEN the women’s liberation movement began in 1970, groups sprang up all over London and all over Britain.
You would have a meeting and establish some of the things you wanted to discuss but at the next meeting there were twice as many women and you had to go over the same ground again.
So the newcomers were told “form your own group,” and the number of groups doubled and trebled.
A lot of women wanted to destroy all the hierarchies in society — not only of gender, but of race, nationality, age, disability, sexuality … but especially of class. We were almost all white but we were not all middle class.
I had been involved in the anti-imperialist movement in the Caribbean and, back in Britain, in the anti-racist movement (we were a mixed-race family).
I naturally brought that to women’s liberation. Some women embraced anti-racism but some treated it as an alien force competitive with feminism.
They had not yet registered that most of the women in the world are not white: the number of people of colour in Britain, though growing, was still relatively small.
I also brought women’s liberation to the anti-racist movement and fought it out with the men there; the women found their own voice.
At that moment in time it was difficult for most people — in any movement — to conceive of identifying as more than one sector. But some of us thought that we were all more than one sector and that we shouldn’t have to cut off any part of our identity to fit into any movement.
As women we identified first of all as those who did caring work for everyone but were the poorer and subordinate sex because we got not a bean for doing it. We had concluded that this unwaged work was central to the low status of women in every sphere and every country.
We produced and cared for all the workers of the world, and thus gave birth to and maintained every economy. In much of the world this included growing the food we fed our families. We were often asked by husbands in so called advanced countries: “What did you do all day?” as we put the meal on the table while tending a crying child. We women worked very hard doing what wasn’t considered work.
To redress this basic exploitation we formed the International Wages for Housework Campaign (WFH).
In 1975 WFH in London opened our first women’s centre — a little squat which ultimately became today’s Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town.
It’s one thing to campaign for unwaged work to be waged by governments, it’s quite another for various sectors of women to organise together with this perspective and at the same time make their own particular case — as women of colour, as lesbian women, as sex workers, as women with disabilities, as single mothers, as rape survivors, as immigrants, as asylum seekers…
It was that autonomous but mutually supportive way of campaigning that enabled us to come together in a women’s centre (there are more than one Crossroads centres in the world) and even in an international network which includes domestic workers, farmers, factory workers, students, teachers, nurses, claimants…
From 2000 WFH has co-ordinated the Global Women’s Strike in a number of countries.
This International Women’s Day is different in a number of ways. The women’s strikes which have been taking place around the world on March 8 have focused on rape, domestic violence and the murder of women, and the demand to end the impunity men are being given by the state. Caring work has featured as never before.
Caring has even entered university syllabuses. This is not only because women are insisting that this massive contribution be finally recognised but because we’ve gone out to work, doing a double day whether we like it or not. That was the only route to financial independence or even family survival once benefits were cut.
Now we face a climate emergency which threatens the whole of society, and in fact the whole world.
Strangely enough it was this crisis which opened the way to updating WFH. The Green New Deal for Europe, of which we are a dedicated part, is proposing a care income paid to all who do caring work for people and the natural world, whatever our gender.
At last protecting people and protecting Mother Earth are equated and elevated above the uncaring market.
This is light years ahead of a basic income which hides the crucial work that women do, leaves intact the sexist division of labour and the domination of the market and can even be used to abolish benefits.
And it is certainly more respectful of caring relationships than parking dependent loved ones with “professionals” in order to the “liberate” us, as some women economists urge.
We know enough about capitalism to worry that a “greening” of Europe means a new level of exploitation and environmental destruction of the global South — ie where is lithium for electric car batteries coming from and who is mining it? They will try to sell and celebrate this “development” — which makes international accountability and organising even more urgent.
The new and massively growing movement to save the earth is having to confront every prejudice which has divided us. Fighting for climate justice is our chance and our need.
This Sunday the Crossroads Women’s Centre will open its doors to women and to every gender, welcoming all to meet the 15 organisations based there and what they try to accomplish through collective self-help.
The open day on Sunday March 8 features workshops, films, exhibitions, music and refreshments. It runs from 12pm-5pm at 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX. For more information visit crossroadswomen.net.
A disabled woman’s tribunal victory has given hope to claimants who cannot take part in face-to-face benefit assessments for impairment, health, or trauma-related reasons, but then have their claims ended by the government for “failure to attend” their appointments.
Jane* spent two years fighting for her benefits to be reinstated, with support from the grassroots group WinVisible** and the charity Child Poverty Action Group, before the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) conceded defeat at the upper tribunal.
WinVisible said disabled people who cannot attend face-to-face assessments for health reasons or after surviving trauma or even abuse or sexual violence had become “easy targets” for DWP.
Among those claimants WinVisible has helped is a cancer patient who missed four assessment dates while struggling to cope with her diagnosis and clashing NHS appointments.
It has also highlighted Jane’s case.
She is an older woman, from the East Midlands, who has been disabled for 40 years and was previously claiming the highest rates of disability living allowance.
She had been receiving DLA since its introduction in 1992 until she had it suddenly removed by DWP in March 2018 for “failure to attend” a face-to-face assessment, after she was reassessed as part of the introduction of the new personal independence payment (PIP).
Her request for a home visit in the afternoon so she could prepare for the assessment was refused by the outsourcing company Capita.
Then her request for the assessment to be carried out on paper – because of the anxiety the process was causing her – was refused.
She had her benefits cut off after a failure to agree a suitable appointment time.
When she appealed but was unable to attend the tribunal for impairment-related reasons, she was branded “un-cooperative” by the tribunal panel, which rubber-stamped the DWP decision.
She was left with no disability benefits and unable to leave the house without someone to push her manual wheelchair. She also passed the age of 65, and so had to apply for attendance allowance, which has no mobility component.
She would have given up the fight if she had not come across WinVisible when searching online for help.
WinVisible secured support from CPAG’s upper tribunal project, which works with smaller organisations taking appeals to the upper tribunal.
Months of legal discussions, overseen by a tribunal judge, eventually saw DWP concede defeat, and agree that a fresh PIP claim could be decided only on paperwork, with the help of further medical evidence gathered by WinVisible.
The judge has now approved a “consent order”, which has seen DWP agree to award Jane the enhanced rate of PIP indefinitely – both for daily living and mobility – as well as more than £10,500 in backdated payments.
Claire Glasman (pictured, front left, speaking), from WinVisible, said: “‘Failure to attend’ is a big issue for sick, severely disabled and traumatised claimants, such as survivors of abuse and sexual violence being assessed by strangers.
“And those of us who are immigrant and refugee women face racism, where psychiatric reports about trauma are dismissed.”
“We are easy targets for the DWP to dismiss our claims in this way. As disabled claimants, we are expected to accept needless and stressful reassessments, and appointments at any time, even 9am on a Sunday morning.”
She pointed out that Jodey Whiting, who took her own life in February 2017 after being wrongly found “fit for work” following a missed work capability assessment, also lost her benefits because of a “failure to attend” decision by DWP officials.
Glasman said changes to the system were promised to Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, but instead the system was “getting worse”.
She said: “Most services tell people to comply with the current system and are judgemental against women.
“Compliance includes routinely attending exams and interviews when asked.”
She said WinVisible was instead providing information and support for disabled women to fight their cases, highlighting the discrimination in the system, and pointing out that exemptions from “stressful” face-to-face interviews are provided for in regulations and DWP guidance.
She said: “We also try to overcome the indifference, bureaucracy and delay which exhausts sick and disabled people into giving up, by asking MPs and senior officials to intervene.”
Glasman added: “Disabled people, and disabled women especially who are dealing with added issues such as domestic violence and caring responsibilities, feel very strongly that the benefits system should not treat us like malingerers and scroungers, and should respect our rights.”
DWP declined to comment on Jane’s case.
*Not her real name
**WinVisible is based in London but is often contacted by disabled women across England, Scotland and Wales, and welcomes volunteers, with its casework and advocacy financially supported by the Oak Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…
Join Shoda Rackal from @WomenStrike Women of Colour and Solveig Francis from #CrossroadsWomenCentre for a conversation about mothers, breastfeeding and campaigns for a #CareIncome! https://eventbrite.co.uk/e/breastfeeding-best-for-babies-planet-too-with-women-of-colour-global-womens-strike-tickets-96986546371?ref=eios