GENERAL ELECTION: Making sense of those manifestos

We started out preparing for this post by trawling through each of the party manifestos to gather information. We quickly realised that there was more vague and flowery language than in a ‘Creative Writing for Beginners’ class and every party, as always, makes pledges and promises that leave you wondering where the funding is going to come from. With this in mind, we have shifted our focus to bring you information from external agencies that is unbiased as possible, as well as interesting articles we discovered along the way.

Whilst all of us are affected by Brexit, immigration, the environment, trade and so on, we want to focus here on resources that are most likely to be useful to the majority of our followers, in these key areas: Families, Health and Social Care, Education and Women’s Rights. There are, however, links below to each party’s manifesto, some of which are a little more accessible than others – every party, aside from the Conservatives has created a more accessible, at-a-glance summary of their manifesto, making it easier to locate particular topics, rather than tackling an entire document.

Before we begin it’s worth pointing out that, if you are looking for a party that cares about any of the following areas specifically, you will be sorely disappointed:
UNMENTIONED: Helping parents who would like to stay at home to care for their own children, rather than returning to work. It appears that no party places value on mothers (or fathers) unless they are earning money in the workplace. For more on this, see our past post on Stay at Home Mothers.
UNMENTIONED: Reinstating the rights of Independent Midwives to practise. Despite assurances of equality, women are having their birth choices seriously limited.
(ALMOST) UNMENTIONED: 
Only the Liberal Democrats make specific reference to maternal/perinatal mental health. No party gives any assurance that mothers and babies will not be separated should the mother required specialised treatment. Whilst mental health generally (and that of children, specifically) is mentioned by each party, that of mothers is not.
UNMENTIONED:  Better support for breastfeeding mothers, tighter regulations on the advertising and marketing of formula and the introduction of practitioners in every hospital who are properly trained to spot tongue and lip tie. And yet women are expected to breastfeed for at least six months.
UNMENTIONED:
Clearer information for women about their rights in pregnancy and birth. Every day, we hear stories from women who felt bullied or disempowered during pregnancy, birth or both. Why, in the 21st Century, is this still so commonplace?

Individually, these points are, perhaps, too trivial to mention – they are the minutiae. Political parties will argue that

Who REALLY deserves their place at Number 10?
they’re covered by catch-all statements such as, ‘we will ensure better community care’ or ‘Mental Health waiting times will be significantly reduced’.  However, for a mother who has had a negative birth experience, is finding breastfeeding hard and doesn’t know where to turn, is struggling with PND and knows she doesn’t want to return to work but feels she has no choice, these points are NOT the minutiae; they are her whole world as she currently knows it… ‘She’ is not being represented, yet ‘she’ represents a huge number of women, and many more to come, including our friends, daughters, nieces and grandchildren.

FAMILIES & CHILDCARE
As mentioned above, no main party places any importance on the role of the stay at home parent, or recognises the benefits of this for children. This seems more than a little ironic, given that most of them do cover the topic of children’s mental health. We are not, of course, suggesting that all children who are placed in childcare will suffer with mental health issues, far from it, but there is no recognition whatsoever of the link between the need for secure attachment between parents as primary caregivers and their child(ren), or of the fact that, for some children, being separated from their parent is not the right move for them. The sole focus of all parties is getting mothers back to work as quickly as possible.  The Lib Dems go so far as to suggest free childcare for children from as young as 9 months – are we edging ever closer to the US norm of mothers having to return to work at six weeks postpartum?

– For your options on childcare, this is a good summary of key pledges, from the Family and Childcare Trust.
– The Women’s Equality Party Manifesto is, naturally, that most geared toward the rights of women, yet still without mention of stay-at-home mothers.

HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE
Each of the main parties makes claims about community care, mental health provision and care for the elderly. Labour and the Liberal Democrats mention support for women who have suffered a miscarriage, and Labour talk of the guarantee of safe abortion for the 1/3 of women who will choose to have one. As above, with the exception of the Lib Dems, no specific reference is made to perinatal mental health, despite soaring figures in the past decade. Whilst it is fantastic to see mental health being made a key priority for every party, especially childhood mental health, the omission of anything regarding maternal mental health, by all bar one party, is concerning.

– For a clearer picture of NHS targets under the three main parties, as well as their projected expenditure in relation to our GDP, this Nuffield Trust article is thorough and accessible.
– To gain a better understanding of how each party plans to tackle the mental health epidemic in the UK, the charity Mind has compiled this, including a summary of each party manifesto.
– Gwen, Liv and Natalie from Can I Breastfeed In It? have put together a ‘What it Means for Parents’ guide to the main parties – definitely worth a look.

EDUCATION
Having both worked in the education sector and now having toddlers who will be approaching school age in a few years, this is an emotive topic for us. Jo is one of the 1/3 of teachers who left the profession within five years of training and statistic suggest that over half of all teachers plan to leave teaching within the next five years. Schools, teachers and many pupils are at breaking point and, under current plans, 93% of schools will have their funding cut by 2022. It really is a desperate situation.

– School Cuts is a useful tool for gauging how these cuts will affect your area. Even if your child is not yet of school age, we’d urge you to search all schools – primary and secondary – in your local area.
– Martin George’s TES article poses the question on all our minds – has education been forgotten at the expense of Brexit? Click here for the lowdown on what the election result will mean for our children.
– NFER (The National Foundation for Educational Research) offers useful factsheets about academies and free schools as well as summaries of evidence from the three main parties’ manifestos.
– Online safety is a huge concern for schools, who are dealing with instances everyday of pornography, cyber bullying, sexting… it’s relentless, given the permanent, often unregulated use of smartphones, the power of social media and the reluctance of many parents to accept that their child could be involved in any of it (parents often rally against school SRE lessons and specific content on cyber safety, consent and sex, thinking that by shielding their child from any knowledge of it, it won’t happen to them). In our opinion, no party goes far enough into this issue in their manifestos but here’s a quick summary of how they stand.

WOMEN
There is no question that women are grossly underrepresented and undersupported in our current society. A quick glance at the Everyday Sexism website gives a clear indication of how far we have left to go before women feel equal to men. The main parties are falling over themselves to make promises about gender parity: closing the pay gap, tackling gender discrimination and Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to make half of his cabinet female.
But how will this be possible when some women themselves are seemingly so accustomed to this way of life that they themselves are fuelling the misogyny? For example, according to The Fawcett Society, if a women is sexually assaulted when wearing a short skirt or whilst drunk, 38% of men believe she is solely or partly to blame… 34% of women also believe that to be true. How can any Government hope to unpick this awful, deep rooted mindset and genuinely close the gender gap?

– This article, also by The Fawcett Society, highlights the fact that eight million women will not use their vote on Thursday. They have also written a manifesto for whichever party wins the election – a must read for all parents in order to ensure a better future for our children.
– The Telegraph’s lowdown on what each party is pledging for women is useful if you need a quick guide.

THE MANIFESTOS IN FULL (clickable):
Conservative
Green Party
Labour
Liberal Democrat
Plaid Cymru
SNP
UKIP
Women’s Equality Party

Whilst we could continue, we’re conscious of information overload and, with under 24 hours to go until you can cast your vote, we’ll leave it at this. Hopefully the above is accessible and digestible.

It goes without saying but PLEASE use your vote – these statistics from 2010 are a stark reminder of how much power those wasted votes could have.

Feel free to leave us a comment below about how you’ll be voting and why – as always, we’d love to hear your views.

Love, The Mother Side xx

 

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