Greens promote positive mental health at Brighton Women’s Centre event

Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty with Lisa Dando, Director of Brighton's Women Centre

Convenor of the Green Group, Phelim Mac Cafferty with Lisa Dando, Director of Brighton’s Women Centre

May 19th, 2016

Green Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty joined women, colleagues and friends of Brighton Women’s Centre today (Thursday) to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week with a group discussion event to promote self-care for women.

The event was held on the grounds of St. Peters Church on Thursday 19th of May 2016 and saw participants share thoughts and practical steps they employ to improve wellbeing.

Brighton Women’s Centre (BWC) has been supporting women in Brighton and Hove for over 40 years, and aims to empower women and promote independence in a safe, women-only space.  It provides a range of services including counselling and self-help groups.

 

Convenor of the Green Group, Phelim Mac Cafferty said:

“I’m delighted to support Brighton Women’s Centre and raise the profile of mental health issues affecting women. This is one of the many things that the Green Group of Councillors are doing to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, and highlight the importance of mental health for all our city’s residents.

“Women are bearing the brunt of drastic cuts to local government and many cuts are leaving them increasingly isolated. We know that women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men so cuts to mental health services could mean that vital support is not available when needed.  With such a worrying future ahead, it is critical that we ensure women in the city have somewhere to turn.

“Charities like Brighton Women’s Centre do a tremendous amount of valuable work for the city’s women. Promoting positive mental health for women and providing support for those who may be struggling with mental health issues is an absolutely vital part of this equality work.  Social factors often put women at greater risk of poor mental health than men, and it is essential that we have empowering services to enable women to both overcome social barriers and address the impact they can have on emotional and mental health”.

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Greens to stand up against LGBT attacks at IDAHOBIT event

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May 17, 2016

Green Councillors will join an event in Steine Gardens tonight, Tuesday, May 17, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) from 6-7pm.

The event will include a performance from trans poet Alice Denny, live music from the Rainbow Chorus, and a minute’s ‘noise’ to remember the international victims of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic violence.

Greens welcomed the opportunity the event provides to show unity with LGBT residents in the city.

Convenor of the Green Group, Phélim Mac Cafferty said:

“In the last two weeks there have been shocking homophobic attacks in our city: this is completely unacceptable. On International Day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia our determination to combat this hatred must be strengthened. Brighton and Hove belongs to us all and the struggle to make our city safe for all residents continues.  Greens are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with LGBT communities both here and abroad against discrimination and intimidation.

“In Brighton and Hove it is essential that we work together to stamp out discrimination and violence against the LGBT community.  Green Party Councillors have a long track record of tackling discrimination and promoting equality, and will continue to unapologetically support the right for all our residents to live free from hate and fear.”

 

Expansion of fracking will push global warming above international targets, say Greens

Greens call out undemocratic fracking plans

May 13, 2015

Local Green politicians today expressed their “grave concerns” with Treasury policy on fracking, as a letter from Minister Damian Hinds failed to deny that final decisions on fracking schemes could be taken out of the hands of local authorities.

In the letter, Treasury minister Damian Hinds stated that shale gas is a “bridging fuel to a greener future”, a remark that Greens have said is “deeply misleading”.  Greens point to research from the Tyndall Centre that reveals extraction of shale gas for energy production will in fact mean the UK is unable to meet the target it agreed in Paris to keep temperature rise from climate change below 2° celsius [1].

The letter was received by Caroline Lucas MP, Keith Taylor MEP and leader of the Brighton and Hove Green Councillors Phelim Mac Cafferty, in response to concerns the three Green politicians had raised regarding fracking policy.  Read the full letter here: fracking letter and the Government’s response here: Fracking Letter Reply

In 2012, Brighton & Hove City Council passed a motion put forward by Green Councillor Alex Phillips designating Brighton & Hove as a frack-free zone.  Greens have consistently called  for investment in renewable energy to be increased substantially above existing levels to bring about a green energy revolution in the UK.

 

Caroline Lucas MP said:

“It’s deeply troubling that the Government is planning to take these decisions out of local communities hands. We know that the local environment is put at risk from fracking – whether it’s through water pollution, the movement of trucks or gas flaring.

“The bottom line is that fracking is the front line when it comes to the battling against climate change. By saying yes to fracking we would embrace an entirely new fossil fuel industry that utterly undermines our efforts to cut carbon emissions.”

 

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty said:

“The prospect of final decisions on fracking schemes being taken out of the hands of local authorities is extremely worrying for local communities across Sussex and Brighton and Hove.  Councils could well become powerless to prevent fracking schemes, despite knowing full well they could harm their local areas.

“We will continue to fight for local government and the communities they serve to retain final say on fracking schemes.  We are not reassured by empty promises by the Government on the safety of fracking.  Even a cast-iron guarantee against contamination does not change the fact that continued exploitation of fossil fuels will increase climate change.  This is a no-win scenario, which could be entirely avoided if the government had the will to invest in renewable energy sources.”

NOTES:

[1] http://kevinanderson.info/blog/why-a-uk-shale-gas-industry-is-incompatible-with-the-2c-framing-of-dangerous-climate-change/

Greens urge Council to fight back against austerity

Brighton & Hove City Council

Green Group of councillors


PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  

Greens urge Council to fight back against austerity

May 10th, 2015

Greens this week slammed HM Treasury for its “short-sighted and callous” pursuit of cuts to local government in face of mounting evidence from local authorities that vital front-line services will be cut.

The move comes following the Treasury’s recent reply to a letter delivered by the Greens in February, which outlined the cuts facing Brighton & Hove over the next 5 years.  The Treasury stated that Councils must “continue playing their part” in cuts to public services.

The letter from the Treasury can be viewed in full here:Treasury response (1)and the Green’s letter from February can be seen here: Letter to the Treasury

Responding to the letter, convenor of the Green group of councillors Phélim Mac Cafferty said:

“The Conservative government seems intent on continuing to strip local councils of vital resources in the name of austerity.  The notion that local government cuts are essential to economic recovery is inherently wrong.  Instead, cuts of this magnitude threaten our very ability to support our residents as well as build skills and resilience among our young people.  Austerity is an economic and social time bomb, which is set to overload our health service and impoverish future generations.

“The Treasury would rather focus on the details of the allocation process for an ever shrinking pot of money to deliver vital services like social care, public health, schools, transport and libraries.  By deflecting attention to how the pie is cut, they hope to distract councils from the fact that the pie is getting smaller year on year.

“While we agree that a fair allocation system is a worthwhile goal, we cannot ignore the fact that local government is already starved of resources, and this situation will only get worse.  Further cuts will be disastrous for the city of Brighton & Hove.

“Our protests alone may not achieve immediate change, but giving up the fight altogether- as our local Labour council has done- is far worse.  It has never been more important that we continue to stand up for our communities who will be hurt by cuts and make our voice heard”.

 

Let’s eradicate transphobia and make our city safe for all

BY PHÉLIM MAC CAFFERTY

This weekend I’ll be joining the Stonewall Equality Walk as I’ve done for 5 years to campaign for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality.  I’m delighted that in doing so, I will be able to show support for trans equality, which has only been included in Stonewall’s work since February 2015. That happened following a long-standing discussion about Stonewall’s future. Brighton & Hove City Council under the Greens specifically worked on combating transphobia in the classroom and made that point clear.

Since last month, the Council has received a torrent of hostility and abuse from individuals on the subject of gender identity.  Specifically, they were responding to highly inaccurate media coverage that claimed that children were being asked about their gender identity.

Let’s start this discussion with some facts.  As it does every year, the council issued a pupil registration form to all parents with children starting school for the first time. As a standard form, parents select their child’s gender. Included on the form, two sentences of guidance from the council encouraged parents to select the option their child identified with, and consider discussing the issue with their school. Let us be clear: at no point were the council asking children, or even expecting parents to ask their kids about their gender identity.

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The form that stirred up so much hatred

The guidance was aimed at parents of the very small proportion of children who might identify as trans. I know from my work on the subject that from very early in their lives young people often know they are trans or different. By age 4, it is often the case that many parents have identified any issues their children have with their gender identity.

According to the Human Rights Commission, a general rule for determining whether a child is transgender is if the child is “consistent, insistent, and persistent about their transgender identity”.   We aren’t talking about kids who don’t always conform to gender stereotypes like for example a boy playing with a doll, we’re talking about young people with “a persistent and authentic disconnect between the sex assigned to them at birth and their internal sense of who they are” [1].

I wish I could say I was surprised by the level of hostility and vile, abusive comments the Council received.  I got a glimpse of what this abuse was like when threatened on my own doorstep simply for speaking out on behalf of the trans community.

 

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Findings from the Council’s recent Trans Needs Assessment

Sadly, we know from the work of the Green administration’s pioneering work on trans equality that this is a daily occurrence for trans people. Over 64% of respondents to a 2014 survey of trans people in the city had experienced verbal abuse, and 20% physical violence. That’s one reason why nearly 4 out of 5 trans people have experienced depression and one out of three has harmed themselves.

Many trans people who I have spoken to feel from very early in their lives that they do not identify with the gender assigned at their birth. Sadly, some in our society seem unable to cope with this fact.  When fundamental beliefs like this are challenged, rather than accept that their simplistic view of the world may not be completely accurate, many look for someone to scapegoat.

More than a few commentators have claimed efforts at securing trans equality is “political correctness gone mad”.  What some see as political correctness I see as creating an equal and inclusive society for all.  What some once labelled as political correctness we now know as equal pay, equal marriage, and disabled people being able to access buildings.  This is not just a well-meaning liberal agenda, it’s meaningful change so that minorities have the same rights, freedoms and acceptance as every other citizen.

 

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Greens were delighted to support the first Trans Pride in 2014, now a regular feature

I’m pleased to have been a leading voice on Trans Equality at the Council.  I’m immensely proud of the work the Council has done and the very brave members of the trans community who have worked so hard to secure a more inclusive society and address the many issues facing trans people.  If the Council guidance on these registration forms means that even just one family are made aware that support is available if they have a child who doesn’t identify with the gender assigned at birth, then it will have been worth it.  It could be a light in the dark for a family feeling isolated because they don’t fit the “norm”.

As a city, we in Brighton & Hove are famed for our commitment to forge a more equal society together.  Although recent homophobic attacks show we must continue to fight bigotry, for the most part we have established a city where all are able to feel safe, supported and where we belong.  The recent media furore demonstrates that transphobia is still considered to be acceptable in too many quarters.  This is not a different issue, it’s still about a minority of people who are victimised and discriminated against, and made to feel unwelcome in our city.

We must stand together against prejudice.  If you can’t join the Stonewall walk this weekend, there will be another opportunity on 23rd July, when you can join in the city’s 3rd Trans Pride celebrations, to stand alongside our Trans friends, neighbours, colleagues and fellow residents and show our support.  I will be proud to walk for equality on Saturday and proud to stand with the trans community in July. Join us.