Monday, 13 October 2008

Election Survey: Kelleigh Sheffield-Cranstoun (UnitedFuture)

Well, that was quick! I thought it'd be ages before we got any replies to the candidate survey, but in fact there were a few in the inbox overnight. Here's the first one to come in, from United Future candidate Kelleigh Sheffield-Cranstoun. Kind of fitting that a woman is first off the blocks. Kelleigh is United Future's candidate for Waimakariri, and number 17 on their party list.

The Questions & Answers
Question 1. What do you believe is currently the single biggest issue facing New Zealand women, and how would you like to address it if you are elected?
Post-natal care. Women are being sheparded in and out of the delivery suite and pressured to go home very soon after delivering their baby, like they do it every day. Our health system displays an acute lack of care and resources for women who bear children. Women are supposed to be funded for 2 nights following birth, but even this is not real in practice. Women (including me) have been told straight after birth that there are no hospital beds for them, they are made to wait in the delivery suite if they are lucky, or are pushed into the public hallway with their newborn baby to wait for a bedspace to become available. Women are pressured by hospital midwives to go home after the birth, rather than making women feel comfortable in taking their allocated and funded rest and recovery. This has even resulted in the death of a baby from Wellington hospital recently, when a midwife pressured the mother to take her new baby home within hours of the birth. The baby died at home that evening.

This is disgusting and shocking. Women should be allocated 5-7 days of unpressured, supported recovery in our maternity wards or after-care units, not sent home to get straight back on with life as if having a new baby is an every day occurrence. This should be available for all women regardless of location. This time is important for several reasons: rest and recovery for the mother after a traumatic and demanding event for her body, establishing breastfeeding, better monitoring of baby and mother in the days after birth, and allowing a bond to develop between mother and baby. This bond development is crucial, and being pressured to leave hospital so soon after birth may be placing so much pressure on some new mothers that they are unable to bond closely with their child as a baby, which could in turn affect their relationship in the future.

Question 2. New Zealand women are paid, on average, over $300 a week less than men, and the difference is worse for Maori and Pacific Island women. What do you propose as a first step towards closing the gender pay gap?
We need to know what is behind the difference you have highlighted to establish whether there in fact is a real problem. Is that a general figure, or based on like-for-like jobs? With Maori and Pacific Island groups, we know that education is a factor. For Maori we currently hold special seats open for them on tertiary courses, which are not done for other ethnic groups. I also do not know whether you are taking into account women who have left the workforce for a while to pursue mother-hood, and whether that has had an affect on the comparitive pay. Sorry, I would need more information on your findings to answer them appropriately.

Question 3. Do you think NZ's current approach to reproductive rights (abortion, contraception etc) is correct? (Yes or No or No Answer, please)


If not, what changes would you want to make?
A woman's body is not a political sphere and she should be free to choose to continue a pregnancy or not within the natural termination window, without being answerable to society for her choice. Those women who are identified by doctors and health workers to seek repeat terminations should be offered education and help in pregnancy prevention.

Question 4. The police and the courts do not work in preventing violence against women. What other government actions would you take to ensure women can live without fear.
It is not the role of the Police to be Johnny-on-the-spot for violent crime. This is an impossible expectation as it can happen anywhere, anyplace. As a violent crime victim myself, I believe there are several contributing factors. None of these excuse the crime though, and tougher measures need to be in place to deter offending, and repeat offending.

I would like to see no bail for repeat violent and sexual offenders, non-parole periods increased from 1/3rd to 2/3rds of the criminal's sentences. Concurrent sentences served NOT to be the norm. Plus, judges need to consider the circumstances of the CRIME in sentencing, not the circumstances of the criminal. Our penalty system must be much stronger than it currently is.

We would like to see family support centres established to encourage and foster strong families: courses and support offered may help identify and prevent family violence.

Question 5. Those who do the caring work in our society, paid and unpaid, are often the least recognized and the lowest paid, and they work the longest hours. What do you see as the priority to address these issues for those caring for our sick, our elderly and our children?
This question has a very wide scope so I will keep it to a few points.

Children: raising children is a vital role of families and we recognise the cost of raising children. Working for Families is working for some, but others who are just out of the threshold are finding it hard to manage. We are promoting Income Splitting. Rather than parents being taxed as individuals, parents would be taxed as a unit, their income combined and split 50-50 for tax purposes. The mother or father still recieves their own paypacket as normal, but due to Income Splitting, pay far less tax. E.g, where one parent supports the family and earns $70,000, it would instead be taxed as two lots of $35,000. This would be optional for parents, and is not means tested - no salary cap! This financial relief recognises the importance of the contribution of the stay-at-home mother or father.

Caring for disabled children in schools: Schools are currently underfunded when it comes to support staff for disabled children, and this results in many poorly paid support staff who put in extra hours, and effort, with no appreciation. We believe support staff should be funded from government to ensure adequate funding and salaries for these skilled workers, and not be reliant on the current inadequate funding system which sees them paid through the schools' funding.

Caring for the sick and/or disabled: where a nurse or caregiver would otherwise be required, if a spouse or parent need to support their family member who is sick or disabled with full-time care, they should receive financial support from the government for doing so. While the person is a family member, and probably not a trained specialist, they are regardless of that undertaking the work and this is worthy of being acknowledged and supported.

Question 6. The Ministry of Health has recently launched a campaign to encourage breastfeeding and is now recommending that babies be breastfeed to at least one year old. What do you think the government could do to ensure that every woman who wants to breast feed can?
As a current breastfeeding mother I believe the single barrier to women breastfeeding (having spoken to many who can't) is a lack of assistance for mothers post-natal that cannot establish breastfeeding whether the problem is with latching-on, milk production, or pain. A program should be implemented where women who want to feed from birth are actively supported by midwives in the first 6 weeks (midwife after-care window), and directed to facilities that will help where there are problems. These facilities need to be able to adequately support women with professional advice and support on how to conquer the problems they are having establishing feeding. Hospital midwives also need to ensure they do not place pressure on new mothers to bottle feed in hospital if it is not the desire of the mother!

Question 7. What single measure do you think our political organizations could take to better encourage young women to be involved and take on leadership positions in our communities?
(no answer)

Question 8. Do you see domestic violence as an issue for women, for men, or for all New Zealanders? (Women, or Men, or all New Zealanders please)

All New Zealanders.

If elected, what strategies would you like to pursue to eliminate domestic violence?

A big problem with domestic violence is repeat offending. Sadly, many women in violent relationships do not report their problems. Women need to be actively encouraged to report domestic violence because they are more worthy and need to know they do not deserve to be a victim of it. If they require someone to speak to about it, who can remain anonymous, they need to be encouraged and supported in doing this. That means the option needs to be more accessible. They do not need to turn to Police in the first instance if they are unsure about what to do. A phone link similiar the the "Healthline" etc funded by government would be a good start to having an option to reach out to for these women.

For the men (or women) who commit violent crimes against their family members, the penalty needs to be toughened - see my answer above on crimes. At the same time, we need to make sure there are adequate and successful rehabilitation and anger management courses available for those that are identified as having violent behaviour.

Society in general also needs to be encouraged to report when they see domestic violence occuring. By not reporting violent domestic crimes, they are negligible and abbeting it. It is difficult when a friend is involved, so perhaps the support-line should be open to witnesses who are unsure of what to do also.

Question 9. Successive governments have effectively cut the Domestic Purposes Benefit. Do you believe people raising children alone should have sufficient financial support from the state so that they do not need to go to work until they believe that is the best choice for their family? (Yes or No or No Answer, please)
I do support extending paid parental leave to 12 months so mothers can have that first important year with their baby. I am very sympathetic for women who find themselves in this situation and wish to be a full time mother for longer than that, but I do not believe it is the role of the rest of society to pay for them to have the right to do that until they so desire to return to paid employment.

Question 10. Women do the vast majority of cooking and shopping, and increases in food prices are a burden borne disproportionately by women. What do you think our government can or should do to ensure that everyone has access to good food?
Setting up of family support centres could help those in difficulty with establishing a family budget.

It does not seem fair that we are paying international prices for dairy products that are produced in NZ - they should be sold at domestic market rates. There needs to be an investigation into why this is happening and whether the goverment has any grounds with which to act in support of lowering prices on these products.

Question 11. Do you have any further comments that you wish to make about the role of women in our society? Please feel free to share your thoughts here.
From personal experience, women are far to undervalued when it comes to their role of child bearing and raising. I would like to promote more respect and dignity for mothers. A drastic improvement in post-delivery care, Income Splitting which recognises the important contributions of stay-at-home mothers in our society, and getting tougher on domestic violence offenders will be a great start in supporting these women and making them feel proud and valued in the crucial role they have in our society.

I hope to get survey answers up from the other four responses I have received so far some time over the next two days.


Alison said...

I really can't sit back and let this one go;

Women are pressured by hospital midwives to go home after the birth, rather than making women feel comfortable in taking their allocated and funded rest and recovery. This has even resulted in the death of a baby from Wellington hospital recently, when a midwife pressured the mother to take her new baby home within hours of the birth. The baby died at home that evening.

No coroner's report has yet been released. The LMC in this case had gone home, leaving the woman in the care of a second carer, understandable and necessary after being the carer during a 30 hour labour. We do not yet know the cause of this baby's death, and I hate to see blame directed at a midwife when we have, as yet, no idea whether it would have occurred regardless of location.

There are many benefits to being sent home from hospital sooner rather than later, provided there is sufficient postnatal care. NZ might do well to look to European countries who provide state-funded home help in the weeks after birth. As is, NZ women actually have far MORE postnatal care than women in many other countries (the US in particular) including postnatal visits from midwives, but there is more that can be done. We should have the facilities for women to stay in hospital if they so choose, but that is a separate matter from whether there is any blame to be laid in this particular case. For a country in which the prosecution case carries the burden of proof, we, our media and our politicians are far too quick to judge as guilty our health practitioners.

Hugh said...

Not that it's CRIME, not crime.

Clearly Ms Sheffield-Cranstoun has been attending the same school of policy formulation as Cactus Kate.

Anonymous said...

Great to see someone sticking up for mothers at last. I did have a bad hospital experience and while some mums may like to leave early, we shouldn't be so pressured into doing so. My friend is now expecting and has had a letter from hospital advising her to leave withing a few hours of the birth.

And sorry but the news did report that the poor baby in question did die of breathing complications after leaving, and that the midwife had told the mother she could leave. You don't need a coroners report to hear the mothers side of the story - clearly you are one of those who don't value motherhood or womens rights. Crazy that you would pick out a tiny piece like this to be misinformed on after all that has been said here in favour of making things better for women. What are you doing to make a difference.

ideologicallyimpure said...

Well, as per usual with UF, it's a mix of things I like and things that really rub me up the wrong way, like:

We need to know what is behind the difference you have highlighted to establish whether there in fact is a real problem. Is that a general figure, or based on like-for-like jobs?

Which is the biggest fucking oh-discrimination-doesn't-exist-it's-just-that-you're-comparing-doctors-and-cleaners myth.

And I am very sympathetic for women who find themselves in this situation and wish to be a full time mother for longer than that

Hi, I'm Kelleigh Sheffield-Cranstoun, and I like to live in a fantasy world where the DPB is just about women "wanting to be fulltime mothers", as opposed to unable to balance childrearing and work due to low unemployment/lack of flexible working hours/discrimination.

Anonymous said...

I just have to add, since you picked it out, she doesn't actually say anyone is to blame for that death, just that it occurred. Perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to judge. That looks like a system failure being picked up and given as an example to me.

Alison said...

anonymous, let me answer your various points.

I just have to add, since you picked it out, she doesn't actually say anyone is to blame for that death, just that it occurred
She specifically says that a midwife's action "resulted" in the baby's death. We do not know that yet. The fact that the news report said it did does not make it so, unless the reporter has reviewed the medical evidence, which they haven't, because it hasn't yet been made available! At the time of the baby's death, the mother made a statement, via a spokesperson on National Radio, that they felt they had had excellent care from the midwife.

Crazy that you would pick out a tiny piece like this to be misinformed on after all that has been said here in favour of making things better for women. What are you doing to make a difference.
I will admit to having a vested interest here, in that I am (assuming I'm accepted for the course) about to begin studying as a midwife (THAT is one of many ways I "make a difference"). My concern is that midwives are leaving the profession in droves, and insufficient numbers are picking the job up, and one major reason is that midwives are subjected to blame in the media for things that go wrong, even when they are not at fault (the same applies to other health professionals as well). Midwives play a vital role in providing continuity of care and good postnatal care, and thus, the more we have, and the better supported they are, the better the care women will receive. That is why I pick out that point that you view as "minor" - it is my area of interest, and for that reason I pick up on it, assuming others will comment on their areas of interest/expertise.

clearly you are one of those who don't value motherhood or womens rights.
I simply don't understand what part of my comment prompted this. As I noted initially "we should have the facilities for women to stay in hospital if they so choose". I'm really at a loss to understand why my correction caused you such offence.

I am ABSOLUTELY in favour of women being supported (financially, physically and emotionally) through birth and new parenthood, and that is one reason why I am constantly horrified to see the media and politicians demonising the work that midwives do, just for the sake of having someone to point at in our blame-obsessed culture.

Anna said...

Anon, Kelleigh S-C says, 'Women are pressured by hospital midwives to go home after the birth' followed by 'This has even resulted in the death of a baby from Wellington hospital recently'. That couldn't be any clearer in attributing blame.

I'm not particularly familiar with this Wellington case, but it seems to me that it may be less black and white than you're making out. For example, was the health problem which the baby died from foreseeable? If so, did the midwife fail to see it because she was negligent, or was it one of those regrettable cases of a duly diligent but incorrect judgement call?

Before you trash someone's career, you need to be absolutely sure you know the facts. Mothers have a lot of knowledge about our children, but simply having babies doesn't make us medical experts. You've concluded that Alison doesn't care about women or motherhood because she wants sufficient information to make an informed comment. That strikes me as being a wee bit nutty.

Of course women shouldn't be pressured to leave the hospital/whatever before they're ready, but don't assume that everyone wants to hang around. I didn't.

alison said...

PS. If the coroner's report has been released, and I missed it, please point me to it. I don't think it has, however, as I have google alerts notifying me of all NZ news articles referring to maternity care or midwives.

IF the coroner holds the midwife responsible, then she should be disciplined appropriately, but I haven't yet seen evidence that this was the case. It seems more likely that the problem was overcrowding in the hospital, which is not the fault of an individual LMC.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Kelleigh here. Thank you for the reponses above, it gives me the opportunity to clarify a few points I have made.

Regarding post-delivery care and the tragic death mentioned, I did not intend to assign blame to anyone. This is a result of a system failure. I also do not intend to criticise hospital midwives at all - but I see how you may have interpreted this. I mentioned them as they are the public face of maternity wards that women encounter, in fact I think they do a tremendous job! However they are in an impossible position - the problem actually lies with funding - there are a lack of adequate facilities in maternity wards and this is the issue.

Regarding women, single mothers and the DPB, I found this was a very open-ended question - at what point is it right to return to work? This is different for everyone, what I meant with this was that do we need to discuss when the right time is to start looking at returning to work for mothers who are sole caregivers. Is it when children start kindy? When they start school? What do you think?

I am supportive of a family friendly approach with returning to work, particularly with flexible working arrangements for single mothers. The 12 months paid maternity leave is an important step here, giving mothers that first year at home with the ability to return to work after this if they wish. If they do not think it is in their best interest, then they should be supported in this as the early childhood years are important formative ones.

For those wishing to return to work during these early years, and while there are dependents at home, employers should also adopt a flexible approach for sole and primary caregivers including allowing them to work from home when it is suitable for the type of work involved. I certainly do not think solo mothers should feel pressured to be rushed back into the work force especially where there is a lack of suitable childcare for them, unsuitable working arrangements, or employment options. I hope that clarifies my thoughts. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you wish to discuss any of it further, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Deborah said...

Kelleigh, you're a champion for responding so quickly, and for coming by here to join the conversation and respond to points people are making. Thank you.

I'm very uneasy about your comments on the DPB. I'm a mother of three, in a long term, loving relationship with my children's father. He is an active father, and an active partner in running our household. Yet we still find that we simply can't manage two full time jobs, or even 1.75 jobs, due to the on-going issues associated with childcare, which are even worse now that our children are school age.

How much more difficult things must be for sole parents.

Anna said...

Hi Kelleigh - thanks very much being part of the survey. I enjoyed reading your response, particularly in relation to reproductive rights. I share Deborah's unease around the DPB thing. My partner and I both worked for a time, but it was at the cost of our sanity, and we found that we weren't being the parents we wanted to be. We've since changed to one full-time worker and one at-home parent, and it works very well for us - particularly in light of our kids' particularly educational and other needs. Different strokes for different folks, of course, but kids have unique needs, and the policy prescriptions which suit some families well aren't so good for others.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deborah, Kelleigh here. Thanks for your feedback. I am a mother of two myself, and returning to work has always been an issue for me, particularly as my employer more or less forced me out of my job after having my first born. This was because of a lack of suitable childcare facilities in Waiouru. That is why I am in favour of flexible working arrangements, including being able to work from home. As you will see at the end of my response above, I am not in favour of solo mothers being herded back to work if their circumstances in doing so are unsuitable. That is why I think it is so valuable to have employers adopt flexible family-friendly arrangements. My question to you would be, what else would you suggest? I would love to hear your feedback. So far flexible arrangements, the possibility to work from home, flexible hours to fit in around family life (and not the other way round), is something I see as really positive. Perhaps a firm commitment that solo mothers are able to return to work part-time when the time and circumstances are right for them, and have their remaining income substituted by the state, is an idea that could be considered. I have by no means closed the door to hearing your ideas, and I value your thoughts.

Tui said...

ideologicallyimpure said: Which is the biggest fucking oh-discrimination-doesn't-exist-it's-just-that-you're-comparing-doctors-and-cleaners myth.

Even when comparing like to like jobs (and even like to like work histories), women's pay is still significantly lower (and, in fact, the gap between men's pay and women's pay *increases* with the amount of education needed to get the job - for example, university academics have astounding gender pay gaps.) However, my personal favourite "discrimination doesn't exist it's just that..." chestnut is the "Oh, women are paid less because they take more time off to care for their children/have babies" one. The biggest single cause of time taken off work is from sports-related injuries (mostly men's), not maternity and/or childcare. *rimshot*

Even if this wasn't the casew, of course - there are *at least* as many fathers in the world as there are mothers...

Alison said...

Hi Kelleigh, thanks for clarifying that you didn't intend to lay blame. As a prospective midwife, it has been really upsetting to me to see midwives blamed, often without evidence, on such a regular basis, while many politicians simultaneously decry the shortage in the midwifery workforce. It's no coincidence - midwifery is exhausting, and the [mostly] women who form the workforce give up many things to provide midwifery services (especially independent midwives, on call 24/7), and find it hard to continue in the face of constant derision of their skills.

It's really important to support the women who support women. Although it's far from perfect, NZ's maternity system is nevertheless held up as exemplary by many other OECD countries. Unfortunately that will cease to be the case if we bully our midwives out of the profession! Perhaps you could encourage United Future could take the lead on this.

All my respect goes to you for being available to discuss all of this Kelleigh - many other politicians could do well to follow your example!

Now I'll leave other readers to comment on other aspects of your reply!

Anna said...

Hi again Kelleigh. I'm completely supportive of your stance on flexible work arrangements. In terms of what else can be done, I think that it should be accepted that staying at home to raise kids is a valid choice for some families. Some solo mums will want to work and should be supported to do so, but some will find this doesn't work with family life. We don't consider that married mums who depend on their husbands are lazy or degraded in some way, so we shouldn't think this of single mums, I believe. (I'm not suggested that you personally think this - it's a widely held view.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tui, Kelleigh here. Thank you for clarifying a few points surrounding the gender pay gap. You have raised some important issues that I am not aware of, including the growing disparity for university academics. I do not have a background in the area of gender pay gaps, but would actively support any scheme that would pursue an end to it. The only reason I asked for more information on that question is because I have studied interpreting statistics, and if we know more information about them, there is a greater chance of successfully acting on them. Whether it be a problem with employer attitudes towards women in general, women with children, women being restricted from certain employment options (e.g. military restrictions) etc. I did not intend to suggest there is no pay disparity.

Alison, you are quite right that there are a lot of midwives leaving the profression - shortly after becoming qualified. Midwives should be supported and encouraged, and not afraid to practice. Their role is very demanding, including as you have said, being on call 24/7. I do think they are underpaid for the incredibly important work they do, and that we need to encourage a culture of support for midwives. I would gladly take the lead on that.

We are lucky to have great ante-natal and post-natal care in our country, that is something to be really thankful for. My criticism lies with funding surrounding the birth and immediate aftercare for mother and baby during their hospital stay, if they choose to have this. The hospital system cannot currently cope in many areas.

Anna - anyone who thinks being a full-time mother is a lazy option is day-dreaming. I found the DPB question difficult because of the open-ended interpretation that could be had of "when the time was right".

Anonymous said...

Clearly Hugh got a cactus up his backside-wot a sour little socialist you are my boy!

Azlemed said...

for those interested in the politics of birth, I would recommend watching "the business of being born" it is about birth in america. it made me realise that while things were not ideal here, we are better off than others.

alison said...

Yes, it's an interesting film, azlemed!

Hugh said...

Anon, I'd think not using caps lock in online discussions was a common-sense policy that people of all political persuasions could agree on. But perhaps I missed the memo where William Bucklet or Rush Limbaugh explained how lower class words are an anti-democratic affectation of the liberal media-academic elite. (Did I do OK, mr right-winger?)