Emergency budget hits women hardest

The Fawcett Society [on 20th October] gave an initial response to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Ceri Goddard, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

“The Comprehensive Spending Review, like the previous emergency budget, hits women hardest. It is women who will be the main losers as jobs are cut, public services are rolled back and benefits are slashed.

“The cuts are so deep and will hit women so hard that they risk more than women’s financial security – they threaten hard fought progress we’ve made on women’s equality. The Chancellor’s plans undermine the status of women as equal partners with men in the world of work, home and society as a whole.

“Of the half a million public sector workers facing unemployment, more than two thirds will be women. This is because 65 per cent of public sector workers are women, and more women work in the low paid, low grade and insecure work most likely to be hit. This comes on top of the 1 million women already unemployed in the UK – last month, 75 per cent more women signed on to unemployment benefit than men.

“The £18bn a year cuts to the welfare budget, as outlined today and in the recent emergency budget will also see women bear the brunt as benefits typically make up one fifth of women’s income as opposed to one tenth of men’s. Taking Housing Benefit as just one example – a million more women claim this than men, and many of these will be lone parents facing poverty.

“Targeting local government is tantamount to singling out women for the hit – 75 per cent of local government workers are women; cumulative cuts of 28 per cent in the budget for this sector will have a disastrous impact on women as both employees and service users.

“Rolling back public services hits women particularly hard not only because they tend to use services more frequently and more intensively then men, but also because of their sizeable caring responsibilities. Slashing at this aspect of the welfare state does more than reduce the support many women rely on, it also increases the burden they carry – many women with caring responsibilities for children and elderly relatives will find it harder to manage as the help they’ve thus far relied on dries up.

“The measures unveiled today seem, as is becoming a theme of the Coalition Government, to see women’s services and benefits as a soft target. But women aren’t starting on an equal footing – women typically earn and own less than men, and are more likely to live in poverty. They do not have the same independence and financial security that men do, and they are under-represented in boardrooms, in politics and in public life generally. Making women bear the brunt of deficit cutting measures makes a mockery of the government’s claimed commitment to fairness.

“Taken apart, many of the measures announced today will dismay women across the UK, add them together and they’re a disastrous blow for women’s equality.”

Find out more here http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

East Devon Green Party Opposes Maternity Cuts at Honiton Hospital


The East Devon Green Party have written to all 20 councillors on the health scrutiny committee to object to the proposals to close the Maternity Unit:

Dear Councillor

I am writing representing the East Devon Green Party and would like to raise our objections to the proposed changes to the services at Honiton Maternity Hospital.

The East Devon Green Party objects to the closure of the unit and the changes to the way mothers and expectant mothers/parents will been cared for in the East Devon area. After attending several meetings, both at The Knowle and public consultation meetings and reading the literature involved, we do not feel that the proposed changes offer any improvement in services in our community. Quite the opposite in fact, we feel that moving the care from the unit to home based/midwife care will be extremely detrimental to the service. This is not offering women more choice, again quite the opposite. It limits choice and for many women. 24 – 48 care within the unit is what they need to establish breastfeeding and simply recover from an exhausting physical experience.

The East Devon Green Party are an active part of the Honiton Maternity Matters group which involves representatives from four political parties (Green, Labour, Conservative and LibDems) as well as many councillors, medical professionals and parents. There is a huge amount of upset and outrage about this proposal within this community and we are hoping that the scrutiny committee, of which you are a member is listening to all of the objections and will do the decent thing and not allow these unworkable and unfair proposals to go any further.

I look forward to hearing from you & hope to attend the meeting in the morning.

Kind Regards

Sharon Pavey (resident in Honiton)

Coordinator East Devon Green Party


Photo above – Sharon Pavey on the right & Sharon Howe demonstrating at the East Devon District Council offices at the Knowle in Sidmouth.

Two thirds of East Devon new mums exhausted when they leave hospital

Almost two thirds of East Devon mums are exhausted when they leave hospital after having a baby.  That’s the results of a survey published today, by campaign group, Honiton Maternity Matters.

And a worrying 16 mums (almost half the respondents) then went on to ‘struggle to manage’ or ‘really struggle to manage’ when they returned home.

The online questionnaire, which was emailed to more than 2,800 people on the Facebook group ‘Save Honiton Maternity On-site Aftercare’ was aimed at women who had given birth at Honiton maternity unit and the RD&E since transfers from the RD&E and overnight stays ceased at Honiton in February.

A total of 39 women responded to the survey – thought to be around half of East Devon women giving birth in that timeframe – which listed 28 questions on local mums’ experiences, including breast-feeding support.

Ann-Marie Chapman from Axminster gave birth at Honiton in May.  After 48 hours with just a couple of hours sleep and then a difficult first night at home with her new baby, she was completely exhausted and struggled to cope.

She said:  “It was really hard.  I was utterly exhausted and was extremely teary. I was very lucky and had the support of my husband and parents who looked after my baby whilst my husband and I got little naps.”

And due to problems with trying to get a midwife to visit at the right time for help with breast-feeding, Ann-Marie decided instead to turn to her midwife sister-in-law for assistance.

Ann-Marie explained: “I had a horrible first night where my baby screamed and screamed but wouldn’t latch on properly.  We phoned the maternity unit to ask for advice but I wanted someone there in person.  Unfortunately the timing never worked.  In the end I had to ask my sister-in-law for help, who is a midwife at Yeovil.”

Retired Ottery St Mary GP, John Ackroyd said:  “I am not surprised by the results of this survey. A period of rest is very important after childbirth, whether normal or complex, for most mothers. In a community hospital experienced staff are on hand to assist with the practical initiation of breast-feeding and the essentials of baby care. Overnight stays allow this to occur but also allow recovery time from the exhaustion which accompanies many labours.”

Claire Wright, Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill, added:  “We had some very revealing remarks which prove that the new telephone advice system is impractical.

“Mums need three hands to receive telephone advice on breast-feeding – one to position the baby, one to adjust the breast and another to hold the phone.  It’s not fair and it doesn’t work.”

Ann-Marie’s experience is typical of the mums who completed the survey, with over half of the women (18 out of 33) not confident about breast-feeding when they were discharged.  13 of those women sought help once they were at home and seven women were visited by a midwife.  Three of those seven waited longer than 13 hours to be seen.  At Honiton’s maternity unit, women received instant face-to-face help and advice any time of the day or night they needed it.

Two women say they gave up breast-feeding due to difficulties.

The survey results are published ahead of Devon County Council’s Adults Health Scrutiny meeting debate on maternity services, which takes place next Thursday (23 September) at 10am.  At this meeting the scrutiny committee will decide whether or not to endorse proposals to end overnight stays at Honiton maternity unit.

Women from all over East Devon took part in the survey but the majority of respondents were from Honiton, with 16 (41%) of replies from the town.  Ottery St Mary and Exmouth had six and five responses respectively.  All the other East Devon towns had one or two respondents each.

Honiton Town Cllr, Vernon Whitlock said: “The results of the survey confirm that the retention of overnight facilities at Honiton Maternity Unit is not just a luxury, but an essential option for new mums. The unit and its staff have established an excellent reputation and provide a vital service which should be retained.”

Over half of respondents indicated that they would like to stay at Honiton Hospital for two nights.  The most popular reasons for this were rest and breast-feeding advice.

Over two thirds of women who gave birth at the RD&E said they did so for medical reasons only.  Just two said it was because the RD&E was their first choice.  The remainder of women (one quarter) said they gave birth at the RD&E because Honiton maternity unit was closed overnight.

Claire Wright commented:  “Although the numbers are quite small, one quarter as a proportion is significant and it makes us wonder that if the plans do go through, the numbers giving birth at Honiton would simply dwindle until it was difficult to justify keeping the unit open.”

“We are now looking forward to the scrutiny meeting next week, to presenting our findings and hearing the debate.  Many councillors expressed concern over proposals at their last meeting on 3 June.  We hope the results of our survey will convince them to reject NHS plans.”

Come along to Devon County Council’s Adults Health Scrutiny meeting debate on maternity services, which takes place on Thursday (23 September 2010) at 10am at Devon County Hall in Exeter. I’ll be there with other members of the Honiton Maternity Matters Group. We will be peacefully demonstrating outside before the meeting then attending the meeting where some of our members are hoping to speak. Email me for details or if you need a lift over there etc. sdpavey@googlemail.com


Listen to Honiton Parents!!!

Honiton maternity unit public meetingThere was a public meeting in Honiton on Saturday (26th June 2010) at the Royal British Legion and I managed to pop along for part of it. It is part of a series of consultation exercises so the NHS (Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust) can listen to the views of people in the area – concerning the proposed changes to maternity provision at Honiton, Okehampton and Tiverton.

Unfortunately – I don’t think anyone attending the meeting really felt that the panel of three NHS representatives were really listening to anyone, except themselves! Their initial presentation was supposed to take just 5 – 10 minutes and went on for about 20 mins, with the women trying to justify cutting the excellent maternity services at Honiton with stories of their own difficult childbirth experiences!!

Vernon Whitlock (town councillor for Honiton) was a great chairperson and supported the many mothers in the room, most with their own little ones playing at their feet, with their comments and questions about the cutbacks being proposed. The Save Honiton Maternity Unit group handed in their petition (photo at the top). We collected quite a few sheets of names on our own Green Party Stalls over the past few months, which contributed to the 1500 signatures handed in (with another thousand or two to be handed in at a later date). New MP for Tiverton & Honiton Neil Parish stood up to support the parents asking for these changes to be reconsidered. See Midweek Herald article here.

I came away from the meeting quite angry and disillusioned at the NHS not seeming to listen, but just going through the motions of showing that they are consulting the public. I would be interested in all the groups and individuals who are opposed to these changes getting together to work out how this can be fought as a collective. The East Devon Green Party is against cuts to NHS services and we are prepared to work with other groups and individuals in the area to oppose these changes. Contact me (Sharon) sdpavey@googlemail.com

Clegg aims to re-balance parental responsibility

Nick Clegg today vowed to end the tradition that sees mothers do the lion’s share of looking after children by giving fathers the right to far more flexible leave.

The Deputy Prime Minister attacked the ‘measly’ two weeks he was given when his third son was born as he gave a major speech on the family. And he insisted the whole premise that mothers will be the main carers should be destroyed in what amounts to a revolution of parents’ rights. A new Childhood and Families Ministerial Task Force will look at the best way to re-balance the family set-up.

Read more:

Honiton Maternity Cuts Public Meeting Sat 15th May


Honiton town council has called a public meeting on Saturday 15th May at 10.30am, The meeting will be at the Makarness Hall, High Street Honiton. The town council has again invited NHS Devon to attend and are awaiting a response.

Anyone who has been collecting signatures for the Honiton Maternity unit petition please could you get them into Honiton town council by midday, Friday 14 May. We can then present them to the NHS and show what local feeling towards the changes at Honiton Maternity unit really are!

I’m hoping to make this meeting on Saturday, can anyone else come too? We need people to represent the East Devon Green Party. If we’re hoping to make a breakthrough by getting a Green councillor on the EDCC (East Devon County Council) then we need to be VISIBLE all throughout the year! Please add your comment below if you can come. Thanks.

Local Mums offer Voters Green Alternative

Cathy Connor & Sharon Pavey (April 2010)

It has been announced this week that the adjoining constituencies of Tiverton and Honiton and East Devon are both to be contested by the Green Party. 40 year old mother of three Cathy Connor of Kentisbeare is standing for Tiverton and Honiton and 37 year old mother of two Sharon Pavey of Membury has already been out and about canvassing in Ottery St Mary, Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth (the East Devon constituency).

Cathy is the 12th Green Party candidate in Devon – making this a record breaking full slate in Devon for the Greens, who are hoping to get their first MP into Parliament this year.

The two women share similar views on many issues which affect parents across Devon. Sharon has been involved with the recent campaign against cuts at Honiton Maternity Unit, attending a protest at the Knowle a couple of weeks ago, “As I have met so many worried parents in Ottery and Sidmouth who are appalled at these cuts, I felt I needed to get involved to try and stop us from losing such a wonderful facility. I myself, needed to spend five days in hospital after my first baby and cannot understand how exactly taking away the option to stay in for a night or two, would give women more choice”.

Cathy stayed at Honition Hospital after having all of her three children and found the help and support of the staff and midwives invaluable.

Cathy cares about the local economy saying “we need to put the vibrancy back into some of our small towns and villages, make it easier to use local community facilites and keep local shops and services alive. It makes no sense to me that although we live in southern England, we import lamb and apples from the other side of the world!”

Both Cathy and Sharon are very concerned about the environment but are keen to point out that the Green Party has strong polices on a wide range of issues. Sharon says “We want to raise pensions to a decent £170, withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, protect our public services and invest in green industry to provide a million much needed jobs.” Cathy adds “Affordable housing must be made available locally so that young families can have a decent place to live without having to travel great distances to work or be separated from friends and family”.

You can contact Sharon or Cathy via the East Devon Green Party – Local Party Contact is Diana Neal on eastdevongreens@googlemail.com or 01395 263728.

Photo above by Geoff Sharples. Sharon Pavey on the right. Cathy Connor on left.


Campaigners fighting to save the full range of maternity services at Honiton Hospital have asked NHS Devon (formerly Devon Primary Care Trust) to clear up confusion about services available at the hospital.

Roger Giles (Devon County Councillor for Ottery St Mary Rural – Independent) had submitted a Freedom of Information request. The response to the FoI request indicates that there was a dramatic fall in the number of babies born to East Devon women at Honiton Hospital in 2009.  The figures show that births to East Devon women at Honiton were:

2007  124

2008  126

2009    41

2010      6 (from 1.1.2010 to 7.3.2010)

The overall number of babies born at Honiton Hospital was as follows:

2007     169

2008     160

2009     156

2010      24 (from 1.1.2010 to 7.3.2010)

“NHS Devon managers have said that any changes to the services available at Honiton will not be implemented until September 2010”


“Yet many mothers have told me that they have been advised that the planned after-care service which they expected, and which they understood to be available at Honiton, will not now be available.  That is a change that appears to have already been made.”

“The NHS Devon figures show a dramatic reduction in the number of births to East Devon women at Honiton in 2009; a total number of births to women from East Devon which is less than one third of the numbers in 2007 and 2008.”

“NHS Devon must explain why changes have already been introduced.  They must also explain the dramatic fall in East Devon women having babies at Honiton Hospital.”

Demo/protest against maternity cuts on Monday 29 March in Sidmouth

A demonstration against cutbacks to Honiton’s maternity post-natal care service is to take place next week at an East Devon town, on Monday (29 March). The event will be held outside East Devon District Council’s offices in Sidmouth and is expected to draw large crowds of local people who are passionately against plans to send mums home from Honiton maternity ward, within a few hours (possibly two hours) of giving birth. You can read more about the protest here on Devon 24.

There are fears that the cutbacks are a short-sighted cost-cutting measure, which could have damaging implications for local mums, such as:

* an increase in post-natal depression

* a fall in the numbers of women breast-feeding, which could also lead to a rise in health issues for babies

* exhausted mothers struggling to cope at home, which could lead to illness

* health problems or infections not being spotted early, which could cause a rise in emergency admissions at the RD&E Hospital

I’ve blogged about the cutbacks at Honiton Maternity Unit previously and I will try and be there on Monday to represent the East Devon Green Party and find out why East Devon MP Hugo Swire is not doing anything about this. Parents from all over the East Devon constituency use the excellent maternity services in Honiton and parents-to-be like Gavin and Jade Watts are very concerned. They have started a Facebook Campaign called SAVE HONITON MATERNITY UNIT ON SITE AFTERCARE and have an astonishing 2,300 members.

Green’s make a positive difference for women

International Women’s Day – 8th March 2010

08 MARCH 2010

The Green Party is concerned about the disadvantages that still facing women in 21st century Britain, such as:

  • Women working full-time on average earn 17% less than men working full-time; for part-time workers the gap is 36% an hour
  • Retired women’s incomes are on average 40% less than men’s
  • Fewer than 20% of Westminster MPs are female; less than 11% of board members on major British companies are female
  • Women still carry out the majority of unpaid work in the home, and in total on average work considerably more hours than men
  • One in four women is subjected to domestic violence in her lifetime, and rape and sexual assault are a societal blight, with significant under-reporting of cases, and only six out of 100 cases that are reported to police resulting in a conviction. Violence against women costs our society £40bn a year, and the psychological and personal costs are enormous

The Green Party is proposing:

  • Women (and men) who take time out of paid work for family or caring responsibilities make an essential contribution to our society, and they should not be penalised for this.
  • All jobs should be arranged, so every worker maintains a decent work-life balance and has time for family, social and community life. Full-time UK employees work the longest average hours in Europe, 43.5 hours as against 38.2 in France, and 39.9 in Germany. The Green Party wants a 35-hour working week, to help improve people’s work/life balance and help to share out work.
  • A non-means-tested citizen’s pension set at 60% of the median national income, currently £170 a week, which would immediately lift pensioners, particularly women, out of poverty.
  • Major improvements in maternity services. A full range of birth options must be available to all women, and all women should be entitled to the care of a single midwife throughout their maternity experience and post-natally.
  • Breastfeeding rates in the UK are currently well below WHO recommendations, with just 42% of babies being breastfed at 6 weeks, 29% at 4 months and just 22% at 6 months of age. Greens would insist on excellent support for all mothers who choose to breastfeed, and significant penalties to ensure they are not harassed when feeding their children in public, similar to the law already in effect in Scotland.
  • Supporting and enhancing Sure Start centres, which help many women and men with parenting. Our proposed citizens’ income scheme would replace the current child benefit, but in the meantime Greens argue for a higher rate of child benefit, to more closely reflect the cost of rearing a child.

A Green Party spokeperson said today that: “The Green Party have the policies to make changes happen that will mean a real and positive difference for women everywhere. Greens have long supported boardroom quotas to improve the representation of women, and to address the discriminatory and insulting pay gap that still exists in 2010. Along with improved child care facilities, and access to these, we will recognizing the input of both parents from a child’s birth. 70% of the world’s poor are women, and 75% of the civilians killed in war are women and children. Greens recognize that we’ve got work to do.”

You can read the entire report – “Fairness, equity and opportunity: Green Party policies of particular concern to women” – here.