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WEBCHAT GUIDELINES 1. One question per member plus one follow-up. 2. Keep your question brief. 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. More here.

Live webchat with Harriet Harman MP on Tues Nov 25th 1-2pm

(292 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 21-Nov-08 18:23:10

We're pleased to announce that, as part of our ongoing Home Front debate, we've invited Harriet Harman MP to drop by MNHQ for a live webchat on Tuesday November 25th at 1pm.

As well as being Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet is Secretary of State for Equalities and Minister for Women.

Please join us to put your questions to Harriet on anything from the Government's plans for flexible working to Gordon's performance in the present economic crisis.

And, as usual, you're welcome to post any questions here in advance if you can't make it on the day.

soapbox Sat 22-Nov-08 23:59:27

You are often described as being somewhat less intellectually able than many of your colleagues - how do you cope with this and how would you rebut that assertion?

EachPeachPearMum Sun 23-Nov-08 00:01:31

blush all the questions I want to ask are personal and on reflection perhaps a little nasty.
Ms Harman doesn't have a particularly blemish-free conscience, I imagine, and my questions all seem to be around the issue of how someone born into a life of privilege can truly understand equality issues.

soapbox Sun 23-Nov-08 00:01:59

Is this recession another nail in the coffin of equality of opportunity for women?

I personally have witnessed many women with childcare responsibilities (how do fathers get away without this tag?) being rather closer than others at the front of the redundancy queue!

tatt Sun 23-Nov-08 11:01:48

Will the labour party end its opposition to grammar schools and allow them to expand if local parents wish for this? The main inequality in this country is still class. Grammar schools were more effective in promoting social equality than a system in which a few are educated privately and the lucky move to where there are good schools.

My second question is about encouraging those who wish to work with children. You have created a professional group to work with children who now wish to stop volunteers limiting their career prospects. Give parents a notional budget to provide support for their children and let them "spend" it on guides or scouts or the local youth club rather than having overpaid professionals who deliver very little. As it stands we don't have activities that bring children together, they are separated in their spare time as they are at school.

Poohbah Sun 23-Nov-08 15:19:14

Labour promised free education for 3 years old, yet in Powys, funding for 3 year olds has been cut by £205 per child with the possibility that the grants will be removed altogether. My playgroup may be forced to close.

Powys is a rural area with non existent public transport and some of the lowest paid workers in the country, therefore, closing local playgroups will hit the poorest people hardest. A local playgroup in a rural area provides a tremendous amount of support to local women who may not otherwise have social and practical support.

What will you do to ensure that funding for early years education is safeguarded?

Will you please tell Jane Hutt, Minister for education, WAG, to give us back our grant money?


PeachyAndTheSucklingBas Sun 23-Nov-08 16:39:21

I'd also like a reply to the question asked by JimJams, I have spent 3 years studying, one year left for my PGCE but my son needs to transfer to a SN unit so I am captive to the bus and lack of childcare provision.

I'd also like to ask whether you think carer provision should be reviewed; caring is something many women will undertake during their lifetimes (men too, though it does often become a female role) and yet we recieve £50pw (counted against tax credits as income) approximately to compensate for the possibly successful and enjoyable career we would otherwise have chosen, not to mention the lack of independence / choice that we have . If we chose to (not that most of us would) hand our children to foster parents, those foster carers would be paid a good deal more.

We are saving the Government a fortune yet treated as invisible and insignificant, with a battle for respite / support which a great many of us never win.

Doobydoo Sun 23-Nov-08 17:21:14

Could you tell us why you voted FOR the war in Iraq?
Could you also tell us why you voted AGAINST an investigation into the war in Iraq?

needmorecoffee Sun 23-Nov-08 19:06:22

Why don't disabled people under 60 get a Winter Fuel Allowance. Despite Ministers illusions, DLA is NOT stretchy and doesn't cover everything a disabled person needs. My dd is 4 with severe cerebral palsy. Her DLA does not cover the extra expenses she has (ketogenic diet, equipment, cooked food, taxi fares to hospital etc) but she is in danger of dying or getting veruy sick this winter because we cannot afford to heat the house. Last night it was 3 C in the bedroom where she and I sleep. (No heating nor insulation up there)
But in-laws who are wealthy get WFA and go ski-ing with it.
Why does the Govt ignore the plight of disabled children?
And what Peachy said. If I handed my daughter to the State the taxpayer would be looking at 2000 pounds a week to care for her. Yet we are paid £50 a week Carers Allowance. This is meant to compensate my husband for his loss of income when he gave up work. Scuse me while I laugh.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Sun 23-Nov-08 20:39:22

If our family gets to the stage where we can't cope and ds1 goes into a residential school it will cost the State £200,000 a year. I really resent losing my carers allowance because I'm studying (as well as caring).

glitterfairy Sun 23-Nov-08 20:44:05

Dear Harriet, I wanted to ask:

1. Why cant payments be made retrospectively if a non resident parent has been working but the resident parent only finds out by accident? At present the claim starts on the day the other parent mentions it which is grossly unfair.

2. Why is it not a legal requirement for a non resident parent to have to inform the CSA when their circumstances change and they take up work or earn more?

In both these cases if these situations were resolved children and (mostly) women some child poverty issues could be addressed in families who are separated. As a mother whose x husband has been extremely uncooperative over payments over a number of years I find it incredible that the inland revenue has teeth which the CSA does not.

glitterfairy Sun 23-Nov-08 20:46:48

Oh and I cannot come on this webchat as I will be at an interview for a higher paid job in order to support my three kids regardless of what their father refuses to do. angry

VeniVidiVickiQV Sun 23-Nov-08 23:36:44

Do you think the Government is doing enough towards helping women breastfeed their babies, and for as long as they want to? What do you think of the Bounty packs that are handed out to mothers-to-be/new mothers? Do you boycott Nestle?

Why is the tax credits system (still) such a shambles, and why can't it be linked with information held on Child benefit and PAYE to save the burden of form filling and sending off applications from parents? Everyone earning and with children has their childrens information on record for Child Benefit purposes, and they all submit either a tax return/self assessment or have a P60/P14 submitted each year. Tax codes are issued with great ease when a change of circumstances is indicated. Why does it need to be so complicated for working parents?

Would you like to see equality for women to mean that they are respected and rewarded for choosing to stay at home to look after pre-school children as well as those that choose to go back to work?

Candlewax Mon 24-Nov-08 00:17:34

Hello Harriet

I ask you this is all seriousness.

My LEA want to place my Asperger son in a residential school for children with severe learning difficulties and communication difficulties (mostly non-verbal).

My son has an IQ of 120, is definitely verbal, he just suffers social and communication difficulties because of his diagnosis. He is capable of eventually going to university and that is what he wants.

My son has a history of suicial ideation and is currently receiving medication for clinical depression.

He has told us that he would rather kill himself then go to the school they want him too. There are no intellectual peers he could relate to nor any pupils whom he could converse with on the same level as him, he is too high for the.

They wish to send him to that school rather than an Asperger specific school because "it would be an in efficient use of public resources".

What is the ceiling price on a child's life and a child's future?

Our Tribunal is on Thursday.

PootyApplewater Mon 24-Nov-08 01:13:12

How do you feel about being a major player in a government that has failed the children of this nation so badly, and in so many ways?

Despite promising otherwise, you have allowed the rot in our state education system to spread.
You fail many children with SENs to a devastating degree.
Social services are overstretched and under-resourced.
NHS waiting times for appointments with Educational Psychologists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists etc are often so long that the difficulties of the child have intensified dramatically by the time the appointment arrives.
Specialist Language Units and Specialist Behaviour Support Units are being closed, leaving the pupils with alternative placements that are at best inappropriate, and at worst, damaging.
Many children are not receiving dental treatment because there are no NHS dentists available in their local area any longer.

In my opinion, it doesn't appear to be a legacy to be proud of.
It will require a huge dose of Labour spin for the history books to look kindly on this political period.

I voted for you. Twice.
I wish I'd kept my receipt - I'd be demanding a refund.

Not fit for purpose.

RightsMatter Mon 24-Nov-08 01:32:21

Why did you remove benefits from single parents? This made things worse for women and put us in penury.
Why don't you concentrate on chasing non-resident men who don't pay for their families?
Why do you waste time on morality over prostitute's clients instead of practicality and making things better for sex workers?
Sort out the CSA not blokes who pay!
I will never vote for a female Labour politician. Your misguided approach gave them a bad name.

HarrietHarman Mon 24-Nov-08 10:43:14


GreenMonkies Mon 24-Nov-08 12:01:53

Why do I have to send my children to school/nursery when really I think they should be at home because they aren't well? Why is "Carers Leave" at my managers discretion and tied into the number of sick days I have had, and not a paid right, calculated on the number of children you have. Last year chicken pox wiped out all 6 of the day I was "allowed", and I had to use annual leave and unpaid leave (when I ran out of annual leave due to covering school holidays) when my childeen were not well enough to go to school/nursery.

When will hospital maternity units stop providing bottles of ready made (branded) formula and instead spend the money this costs on training every midwife, doctor and support worker in good breastfeeding support (and proper in depth training, not just couple of days glossing over the basics and teaching them to chant "Breast is Best")?

When will nurseries be able to offer a govt subsidised discount to parents who provide breastmilk and washable nappies?

When will refuse recycling also include seperating used disposable nappies into yellow "clinical waste" bags and households be charged for the disposal of these yellow bags?

That'll do for now. I'm sure I'll think of more!!!

VeniVidiVickiQV Mon 24-Nov-08 13:34:04

Ooh yes - I'd like an answer on the sorry state of paediatric and educational speech therapy and paediatric physiotherapy.

My daughter was able to access pre-school speech therapy, but as soon as she started Reception class she was 'handed over' to the school speech therapy service and has yet to see the speech therapist to be assessed, and now is a term into Year 1.

The hearing impairment service visits her at least twice a term to check her hearing aids and yet nothing is done for her speech, despite being required to "sound out" some words for reading. It's utterly bonkers!

PeachyAndTheSucklingBas Mon 24-Nov-08 14:37:24

'When will refuse recycling also include seperating used disposable nappies into yellow "clinical waste" bags and households be charged for the disposal of these yellow bags?' probably when nione of us parents of sn have touse disposables for eternity? hope so anyway. After 5 years with ds3 and counting i'd be sellig my soul to the wasted dept otherwise. And thanks for the idea but yes I dou use washables on ds4. School couldnt take them for ds3 if I'd wanted.

<<and yes I did want that on here so the Secretary sees it. Yes indeed, for MN is one of the few places the sn community is in possession of a strong voice>>

herbietea Mon 24-Nov-08 14:58:40

Message withdrawn

Swedes Mon 24-Nov-08 15:32:21

Harriet - During the Deputy Leadership campaign you claimed that you would not have voted in favour of the Iraq War if you had "been in full possession of the facts, specifically about the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction". You clearly feel you were mislead. Why did you then go on to vote against an investigation into the Iraq War? Do you not think Parliament being mislead is worthy of investigation?

I think Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott make a lovely couple. Which Conservative MP would you like to cosy up with on Andrew Neil's This Week sofa?

PhantomOfTheChocolateCakeAvena Mon 24-Nov-08 17:38:26

Hi Harriett.
I am a radiography student and get an NHS bursary which I have to suppliment through working aswell because I can't support my child on how much the bursary is. Can't we and other healthcare students recieve a real wage as we often work shifts, the same as the paid staff. As a healthcare student we are often used as back up when the wards are understaffed, it's the students that do the running around which does nothing for the education we need to be able to do the job. I have to work to suppliment my bursary and am often very tired as a result. Does the government want good nurses/doctors/radiographers etc or do them want average ones that couldn't devote as much time to their studies that they needed to because they needed to survive?

Can't you pay us some more please? It's really hard to support my family on 7K when we have expenses for the course (travel/books/printing etc) to fund. I'm trying to do something to benefit the country and do a worthwhile job but as a student, I don't feel valued enough by the government. I would like to spend my spare time with my son, not working. Also, why are we not allowed to claim working tax credit as a bursary student? Healthcare courses are more demanding than other courses, our holidays are alot shorter and we attend Uni alot more. The placements in the hospitals are full time, working the same shifts as the staff. If we were entitled to claim working tax credit then this would help alot of student parents out of debt and would mean that parents like me wouldn't have to work alongside the course.

LadyMuck Mon 24-Nov-08 17:51:12

Alistair Darling has today managed to balance his budget with the announcement of an extra £5bn "additional value for money savings" in public spending in each of 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Why was he previously content to spend this extra £5bn per annum if it could be cut so quickly (and perhaps conveniently)? How much public spending over the last 10 years could have benefited from a value for money review?

GreenMonkies Mon 24-Nov-08 18:25:41

Peachy, I think parents of SN kids would have the disposable nappy fee waived, well, they would if I ran the world any way..... wink

smallwhitecat Mon 24-Nov-08 18:43:39

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

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