Focus group for women who have had their benefits sanctioned – Monday 7 April 11.30-1.00, Coventry Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Coventry Women’s Voices are helping Fawcett Society organise a focus group for women who have had their benefits sanctioned in Coventry, which will feed into Fawcett’s Independent Inquiry into the impact of benefit reform on women.

The participants need to be women who are claiming job seeking benefits and have had experience of the Claimant Commitment and/or increased sanctions introduced in October 2013. There will also be some capacity for follow up interviews with individual women who would prefer to speak about their experiences on a one-to-one basis.

We would like to hear from women of differing ethnicities and ages.

All participants will be given a £15 Boots voucher to thank them for taking part and help with women’s travel expenses and child care costs is available.

If you would like to take part, or know or work with women who might take part please contact Daksha Piparia at dpiparia@coventrycab.org.uk  or telephone – 02475252019.

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Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate Coventry women Reclaimed the Night!

On Saturday 1st March 2014 over 100 women took part in the first Reclaim the Night march in Coventry City centre for 30 years.  The event was timed to coincide with International Women’s Week, an annual event, which takes plan on 8th March each year.

The march began at 6pm opposite the Council House.  The women then walked in peaceful protest through the city centre ending at Coventry Cathedral.

The Reclaim the Night march was organised by a group of women’s organisations, student groups and trade unionists and was an opportunity to provide self-defining women with a voice and a chance to breakdown the fear women can feel  in public places at night; and to demonstrate that women united can resist fear and violence.

The march followed a survey in Coventry last year which showed that nearly half of women don’t feel safe on the streets of Coventry and 61% of women had experienced harassment in the last year

Other research has shown that in Coventry over 30,000 women have been raped or sexually abused in their lifetime; with approximately 2600 being raped or sexually abused every year.

Speeches from some of the women that took part can be viewed here and here.

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Women’s History Project

Coventry Women’s Voices member and founder of Coventry Feminists, Naomi Wilcox, is currently working on a new online women’s history project which aims to highlight the stories of incredible women from history.

Naomi is looking for people who may wish to be involved (which could include submitting a written profile of a historical woman/group of women or being interviewed for a podcast).

If you would like to know a bit more about the project, please get in touch with Naomi at katacharin@hotmail.com.

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Coventry Reclaim the Night – media release – Saturday 1st March 2014

Sunday 23rd February 2014 – For Immediate Release

MEDIA RELEASE

 For more information contact Mary-Ann Stephenson 07957 338582 or email maryann@maryannstephenson.co.uk or Naomi Wilcox on 07775 601210 or email katacharin@hotmail.com

 Coventry Women Reclaim the Night – March on Saturday 1st March 2014

 Women in Coventry will take part in the first Reclaim the Night march in Coventry City centre for 30 years on Saturday 1st March this year. The event is timed to coincide with the International Women’s Week, an annual event.

 The march will begin at 6pm from opposite the Council House and will walk in peaceful protest through the city centre to end at the Cathedral.

 The Reclaim the Night march has been organised by a group of women’s organisations, student groups and trade unionists and gives self-defining women a voice and a chance to breakdown the fear women can feel n in public places at night; and to demonstrate that women united can resist fear and violence.

 The march follows a survey in Coventry last year which showed that nearly half of women don’t feel safe on the streets of Coventry and 61% of women had experienced harassment in the last year

 Other research has shown that in Coventry over 30,000 women have been raped or sexually abused in their lifetime; with approximately 2600 being raped or sexually abused every year.

 Speaking before the march Rosa Parker-Hinton from Warwick Anti Sexism Society  said:

 Harassment and fear of attack causes women to feel unsafe in public places. Most women alter their behaviour because of this, avoiding certain places, not going out alone or driving rather than using public transport. Women are still blamed for being raped and for sexual violence inflicted on them. A poll found that over a third of the British public surveyed believed that women were sometimes wholly or partly to blame if they were raped due to walking alone at night, how they are dressed, being drunk or other similar factors. We will march in Coventry to challenge this; to maintain that women are never to blame for being sexually assaulted, and should not have their behaviours restricted, rather than the blame culture being challenged. We will march for our rights to live free of fear of sexual violence. We will march to Reclaim the Night!

 The groups organising the March include: Coventry Feminists, Coventry Women’s Voices, Warwick Anti-Sexism Society, Coventry University Gender Equality Society, Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre and Unite the Union.

 For more information see our website: http://reclaimthenightcoventry.wordpress.com/about/ follow us on Twitter  – @RtNCov or the hashtag #rtncov14

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CEMAP – Coventry Community Voice Project

Coventry Ethnic Minority Action Partnership is currently working on a project looking at engaging members of the community to become more active citizens.

Today’s communities are more diverse than ever with many cultures becoming interconnected through the economy, government policies and general life.

Based on data captured from the 2011 Census it is apparent that Coventry has become more diverse in the last 10 years. The Coventry Community Voice project seeks to recognise the diversity of the city and increase these connections with communities leading to greater empowerment with more effective and positive outcomes for all concerned.

CEMAP are offering a variety of workshops to BME and New Communities which include:

  • Introduction to Active Citizenship
  • Civic Participation
  • Getting Involved: with the Council , Health Service, Police and Neighbourhood Forums.

The workshops will equip participants with skills to become a citizen who is an integral part of their community and can influence the decisions being made on their behalf.

If you would like further information or are interested in taking part in the project please contact Viv Brosnahan at v.brosnahan@cemap-coventry.org.uk

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Layers of Inequality – the impact of public spending cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women

unite picUnite and Coventry Women’s Voices invite you to:

Layers of Inequality – the impact of public spending cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women

Wednesday 5 March 2014 at 1-3 pm

Committee Room 16, House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

Chair – Lisa Nandy MP

Speakers:        Kalwinder Sandhu, Coventry Women’s Voices – author of Layers of Inequality: a human rights and equality impact assessment of the public spending cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women in Coventry.

                        Collette Cork-Hurst, National Officer, Equalities – Unite

                        Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters

Runnymede

Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Join us as we discuss the impact of the public spending cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women. The meeting will consider evidence that BAME women are being disproportionately affected by the cuts based on research carried out in Coventry by the University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices.  Whilst this research focuses on Coventry, BAME women across the country are likely to be similarly affected and this is therefore a much wider issue.

Findings of the report include:

BAME women are more likely to work in the public sector so have been disproportionately affected by job cuts and pay freezes. Unemployment among BAME women in Coventry increased by 74.4% between 2009 and 2013. Unemployment among white British women increased by 30.5% during the same period.

The cuts to local government budgets announced in the spending review will lead to further job cuts for BAME women.

BAME women are more likely to be poor and receive a higher proportion of their income from benefits and tax credits. Cuts to welfare benefits will cost all women in Coventry £76 million a year out of a total of £112 million. BAME women are among those hardest hit – the Government’s assessment of the benefits cap concluded that 40% of families affected would include someone who is BAME.

To confirm your place at the event please email: equality@unitetheunion.org and let us know your name, organisation, email address and telephone number.

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Reclaim The Night – Coventry

Women’s and feminist groups in Coventry (including Coventry Women’s Voices) are organising Coventry’s first Reclaim the Night event in over 30 years on March 1st and we need your help! Reclaim the Night will be an event for women to reclaim the streets of Coventry for themselves and to demand their right to a life free from the fear of violence and harassment.

We are looking for self-defined women who want to:

  • Steward the event (don’t worry you will be fully trained and supported by lots of other stewards)
  • Help with setting up the after-party
  • Help with banner making
  • Speak at the rally
  • Perform at the rally or after-party (poetry, music, dance, any other performance pieces)
  • Write short pieces about their experiences of harassment or assault, which will be used to encourage people to think about why Reclaim the Night is still necessary. (These can be named or anonymous).
  • Publicising the event, talking to people, handing out flyers, putting up posters, promoting on social media

If you are part of a women’s organisation, trade union or other organisation working with or providing services to women and would like to make banners for the event, or bring along your own banners we would love to see you there.

If you are at all interested in doing any of these things, even if you will only be able to spare a few hours, please email rosa.parker.hinton@gmail.com for more information.

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Support Coventry Womens Voices – Can you help?

Over the last three years Coventry Women’s Voices have worked hard on a number of key issues affecting women in Coventry with impacts for women nationally.  Below is a summary of the work we have undertaken so you can see for yourself the innovative and important projects we have carried out.

Therefore it may come as a surprise to you to learn that we are largely unfunded and most of our work is carried out by our dedicated and committed members on a voluntary basis or very low financial recompense. We are activists who campaign and research the issues that affect women’s lives. We do not qualify for most available funding streams. Our campaigning has focused on issues that do not attract media attention but impact on women’s lives daily. We give voice to women who do not normally have a platform to speak and raise their concerns. To make more of an impact that is sustainable we require funds to support our members to carry out the work.  We continue to receive requests, both nationally and locally, to speak at meetings, conferences and workshops about our work. However we often have to turn down requests as we are limited to the amount of work we can do on an entirely voluntary basis to promote both the reports and our toolkit.

Can you help?  Do you know of any funding sources or would personally wish to donate towards that can support an organization such as CWVs to continue the ground breaking work we have undertaken?  If so please contact: Mary-Ann Stephenson (CWVs coordinator) via maryann@easynet.co.co.uk or tweet us on @CoventryWomen.

RECENT CAMPAIGNS

We have successfully campaigned and lobbied on a range of issues including:

  • a ‘nil’ policy for Sex Entertainment Venues,
  • persuading West Midlands police to refer victims of rape and sexual assault in Coventry to a local referral centre rather than insisting they travel miles out of the city.

POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER HUSTINGS

During the election for Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) we organised an extremely well attended meeting for women to meet all the candidates. Many women attended the meeting commented that this was the only opportunity they had had to find out who the candidates were or what they stood for. We also wrote and submitted a briefing paper to the candidates detailing the issues affecting women’s organisations in Coventry.

PUBLISHED RESEARCH

We have published three reports on the impact of the spending cuts on women in Coventry:

Unravelling Equality: A human rights and equality impact assessment of the public spending cuts on women in Coventry

Getting off Lightly or Feeling the Pinch?: A human rights and equality impact assessment of the public spending cuts on older women in Coventry

Layers of Inequality: A human rights and equality impact assessment of the public spending cuts on Black Minority Ethnic women in Coventry

In addition, with the TUC we published a toolkit for grass roots organisations to be able to conduct their own impact assessments. All three reports have had a significant impact in Coventry and nationally. Cllr Ann Lucas, leader of Coventry City Council has described the reports as ‘invaluable’. They have been quoted in Parliament and used as evidence for the UK Shadow report to the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee.

With our three reports on the spending cuts we have shown the devastating impact of the cuts on the most vulnerable women, and developed a method for analyzing the impact of the cuts on a local area which could be copied by other groups.

An Everyday Occurrence: in partnership with Coventry University we researched the extent and impact of street harassment on women in Coventry.

FUTURE WORK

We are continuing to promote the findings of our research into the impact of the spending cuts on women and lobby public authorities locally and nationally about the impact of the cuts.

We are working with Coventry Law Centre, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the Centre for Human Rights in Practice on research into the impact of benefit sanctions on people in Coventry.

We are working with Coventry Feminists and students and both Warwick and Coventry Universities on the first reclaim the night event in Coventry for 30 years.

We hold public meetings and events on a range of issues – most recently on Size as an Equality Issue.

We continue to campaign and lobby on issues affecting all women in Coventry.

We are open to all women, women’s organisations and organisations that work with or represent women who support our aims

 

 

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Voluntary and Community Sector Excellence Awards a huge success

Voluntary Action Coventry (VAC) hosted its 56th AGM on 20th November 2013 with an awards ceremony to recognise and celebrate the good work of voluntary and community groups in Coventry. The awards ceremony was a new approach for VAC to reward groups in the Sector who have demonstrated excellent working practice and made a significant impact in their communities. All of the applications received were of a very high standard which shows the amount of good work being done in Coventry by smaller charities and larger voluntary and community organisations. Following the formal AGM, the winners were announced. Coventry City Mission and Foleshill Women’s Training fought off tough competition to successfully win an award each for Involving Volunteers and likewise Adventure Centre Ltd won the award for Fundraising.

Coventry City Mission (CCM) provide young people in Wood End, Manor Farm and Henley Green a positive place to go after school to engage in traditional youth group activities including art & craft, the use of games consoles and a pool table. The unique quality of the Redeeming Our Communities Junior project is that it is run in partnership with other groups/statutory bodies within the area in order to reduce fear and misunderstanding across groups and to create a better community feel. CCM currently has over 100 volunteers supporting their work who provide a positive influence to the people in their communities.

Foleshill Women’s Training (FWT) is an award winning organisation with 24 years experience of tackling Social, Health & Economic barriers that women from Coventry and the surrounding areas face. Many of their new volunteers are women from ethnic minority backgrounds who are newly arrived to the country or are unemployed and looking for work experience. Going to FWT gives them more confidence and social skills to work with other people and to communicate effectively in a safe setting, while they gain more confidence to advance further. FWT train volunteer Health Champions to go out into the community to raise awareness of health issues and promote healthy lifestyle. Many of the hard to reach groups they want to engage face issues such as trust, confidence and language barriers and the volunteers help by breaking these barriers down. FWT recruit a mixture of volunteers with various skills and languages and encourage women to make even small changes.

Adventure Centre Ltd offer young people and their families’ affordable recreation and leisure activities including abseiling, archery, bouldering and zip wire to develop their capabilities that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society. The group formed just over 25 years ago with 5 young children and has since seen thousands of young people and adults come through the doors of the centre. Through fundraising, Adventure Centre Ltd has been able to support parents and young people to access the activities and during the last 25 years over £300,000 has been raised.

VAC would like to thank Harry Shaw Business Computers, Band Hatton Button Solicitors and National Express for sponsoring the awards.

For more information please contact Marian McGowan on m.mcgowan@vacoventry.org.uk or call 024 7622 0381.

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Coventry families left penniless after benefits stopped: Uncovering the impact of benefit sanctions in Coventry

Thousands of families in Coventry over the last year were left without any income after their benefits were sanctioned (stopped or reduced) according to advice agencies working in Coventry. The agencies(1) are so concerned about what is happening to people in Coventry that they are launching a three month survey to find out the full impact of welfare benefit sanctions in Coventry.

The survey is being launched following a meeting attended by over 30 organisations and individuals to discuss benefit sanctions in Coventry. Problems raised at that meeting included:

  • Examples of sanctions that appeared particularly severe including one person sanctioned for six weeks for being five minutes late to sign on, who as a result may become homeless, and another sanctioned for accidently putting the date of a job application and the job applied for in the wrong boxes on a form
  • Examples of stress, depression and other mental health problems, including increased suicide risk among  clients as a result of sanctions, particularly among female victims of domestic or sexual violence.
  • In some cases people only found out that they had been sanctioned when their benefits were stopped and did not know what they had done wrong, or that they had a right to appeal.
  • Families with children being left with no income to buy food or pay bills and at increased risk of homelessness because of rent arrears. (2)

As a result of this meeting it was decided to launch a Coventry wide survey to uncover the full extent and impact of sanctions. Coventry agencies are asking their clients and any members of the public who have been sanctioned to take part in the survey, which is completely anonymous. Copies of the survey and advice about what to do if you are sanctioned are available here: http://www.covlaw.org.uk/welfare/sanctions.html

A direct link to the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FWW7YYW

Speaking at the launch of the survey Janet Gurney from Coventry Law Centre said:

“We are really concerned about the impact that sanctions are having on some of the poorest families in Coventry. From the cases that agencies are seeing it looks as if some sanctions are being imposed unfairly, but few people know about their right to appeal, or that appeals are often successful. We would like to support more appeals in Coventry, but we also need to know more about how sanctions are being imposed in Coventry and what affect this is having on families.”

The results of the survey will be published, and shared with the Job Centre locally and DWP nationally in the hope of improving practice.

Notes

  1. The project is being co-ordinated by Coventry Law Centre, (www.covlaw.org.uk),  Coventry Citizens’ Advice Bureau, (www.coventrycab.org.uk), Coventry Women’s Voices (www.coventrywomensvoices.wordpress.com) and the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/chrp/) along with staff from the Sociology Department at the University of Warwick. A full list of organisations taking part in the survey is available at:  LINK GOES HERE
  1. Case studies of sanctions in Coventry include:

Case studies from Coventry Citizens’ Advice Bureau

A single disabled woman was sanctioned because she filled in a form showing how many jobs she had applied for incorrectly. She applied for the correct number of jobs but put the date and employer details in the wrong fields. As a result of the sanction she was unable to buy food or pay essential bills. She could not afford a bus ticket into town to sign on. She is at risk of debt and the distress caused has made her existing health problems worse. She is expected to use the internet to look for work, but finds this difficult and has had little help or support from the job centre.

A single man with health problems had his job seekers allowance stopped in October this year because he hadn’t attended the work programme in March, seven months earlier. He had been sent a letter in March instructing him to attend a work programme, but this had been sent to an address he had left the previous year. He said that he had told the Department of Work and Pensions that he was homeless and was using the Job Centre as his postal address. A recent Court of Appeal decision means that sanctions can be applied retrospectively. In October 2013 the man’s Job Seekers Allowance was stopped for two months. He is currently homeless and relying on food vouchers.

Case Studies from Coventry Law Centre

Mr S is a man with learning difficulties who was sanctioned for a month because he had to attend an urgent doctor’s appointment on the day he was due to sign on. He had lost consciousness and had to have blood tests to work out what was wrong. A friend had called the job centre to inform them and was told that he should come into the job centre as soon as he was able to.

Mr S went to the job centre the following day to find that no record had been made of the telephone call. He explained that he had had a doctor’s appointment. The officer at the job centre completed the form because Mr S could not read or write. The form did not correctly record what had happened, but Mr S did not realise this so signed it without understanding what it said. Mr S was assisted by a friend to appeal against the decision. At the tribunal Mr S gave evidence about his health problems and learning difficulties and the appeal was granted, removing the sanction.

A woman, Miss S,  who shares care of her son with her ex-partner was sanctioned for six weeks because she was ten minutes late to sign on. This decision was overturned on appeal.

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