Studying or working abroad is a fantastic opportunity to internationalise your degree, boost your personal development and gain a new perspective on your studies.
Each year, more than 700 Bristol students spend a semester or year abroad. Students often say that their placement abroad was a highlight of their degree.
Here, Hannah talks about her experience of studying at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, as part of her BSc in Criminology.
It must have been daunting leaving your family and friends behind. How did you feel when you first arrived?
During the first week it felt like I was on holiday, if not slightly hectic. Whilst you’re trying to settle yourself in and complete necessary errands, like buying a phone SIM and opening a bank account, you are also trying to meet people and explore your new home before university commences. I personally didn’t struggle to meet people as I lived in a shared house with a large group of students from other universities. However, if you do feel lonely or like you are struggling to meet people, the university hosts welcome/mingling events during orientation week which a lot of students attend so this can also be a good way to meet people.
What was the course like?
I found the studying side of the year enjoyable. The workload was similar to what I have been used to at Bristol, but with more frequent assessments throughout the semester. I decided to take two open units and two units compatible with my course, which was really rewarding as it allowed me to explore new subjects/interests outside of my degree subject.
How did you spend your time outside of your studies?
In terms of socialising and travelling, there was so much to do in and around Brisbane and the city was always putting on events and entertainment. The university also has societies for international students which you can join to meet people or just enjoy the events they host; QUEST is particularly good for this. With regard to travelling, you will almost certainly do some travelling in your year abroad and I would 100% recommend this but definitely start saving as soon as you can to ensure you can fully experience each destination you choose without feeling too much of a financial strain.
What’s your advice to students taking a year abroad?
I think a great way to approach the year is to be open and friendly to everyone. You will meet so many people throughout the year so keeping an open mind to experiences and people will be hugely beneficial to you. I also think it is important to remember that you are in the same boat as lots of other students and you are all probably feeling the same way, so don’t worry if you are feeling a bit daunted at first as you will soon find your feet.
This article was originally published by Women’s Aid in their Safe blog.
Tuesday 20th July 2021: Today, Women’s Aid and the University of Bristol publish new research, “Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse. Evidence for Policy and Practice”. Lizzie McCarthy (Knowledge Exchange Fellow – based in the Centre for Gender and Violence Research while undertaking this research) and Sarah Davidge explain why it is vital that we recognise the role sexism and misogyny play in setting the scene for domestic abuse.
At Women’s Aid we often get asked, ‘why do you say domestic abuse is gendered?’
Our answer would be that even though anyone can experience domestic abuse and should have access to appropriate support, the evidence shows us that there is a disproportionate impact on women. We know that women are more likely to experience domestic abuse, are more likely to be subjected to coercive control (those abusive actions that restrict personal freedom and instil fear) and are more likely to be seriously physically and mentally harmed or killed. The kinds of support they need also tend to be very different.
The question we ask is, why are women so much more likely to experience abuse and why is this experience so different to men?
The answer is because domestic abuse perpetrated by men against women is part of wider sexism and misogyny. It is rooted in women’s unequal status in society and is part of the wider social problem of male violence against women and girls. The root causes of domestic abuse are different for women and so the responses to tackling that abuse in policy and practice have to be different too. Similarly, it is important to consider how other experiences of inequality shape survivors’ experiences of abuse- including the barriers and discrimination faced by Black and minoritised survivors, LGBT+ survivors, disabled survivors and older and teen survivors.
We know from our work with survivors that sexism and misogyny permeate their experiences of domestic abuse.
Feminist writers and activists have been speaking out about harmful gendered stereotypes and their link to male violence against women and girls for decades. Women’s Aid and the University of Bristol have come together to take a fresh look at this. Together, we analysed the interview transcripts of 37 survivors who had taken part in the recent ESRC* funded Justice, Inequality and Gender-based Violence Project. We looked for ‘gendering discourses’ to see where sexism and misogyny had played a part in survivors’ experiences of abuse.
We found that sexist myths which are part of everyday society had enabled and shaped the survivors’ experiences of abuse. Here are three common sexist scripts that featured in survivors’ experiences of abuse, with quotes from the survivors we interviewed:
1. Sexist script: Women and men should play traditional roles in the household
Flipped script: Patriarchal roles in the home can enable domestic abuse
“It really became apparent to me in … we moved in together … and it was very much … it was my job to run the household, and his to basically tell me what to do.”
“Just to be subservient and just do everything that he said and not to have a voice or an opinion,…”
“…[he] didn’t lift a finger round the house but expected me to do it. I’d be called to account if things weren’t done.”
“…kind of everything revolved around him…”
Survivors spoke about a hierarchy of roles in their homes or intimate relationships. For the survivors we interviewed, the man was in charge as the ‘head of the household’, and the woman had the unchosen role of the ‘homemaker’. The survivors were tasked with household chores or running the home efficiently, without having any say in how this work was carried out. They spoke of how their male intimate partners often dictated exacting rules about how household work had to be performed, even though the men usually refused to participate in this work themselves. Male authority in the household or relationship was both underpinned and reinforced by male violence and abuse. Evan Stark in his 2007 book on Coercive Control argues that it is easier for men to coerce women through household work (rather than vice versa) because this is already socially accepted as ‘women’s work’ (i.e. these are household roles that women are already socially expected to perform).
2. Sexist script: Women are sexual objects
Flipped script: The sexual objectification of women underpins domestic abuse
“And I think just sort of like the society that we live in at the moment it very much pushes that idea … women are objects and they’re very much sexualised and … like yeah, they’re there for men, like yeah there for the use of … which is … yeah that’s really bad.”
The female survivors we interviewed often described themselves, and how they perceived others saw them, in terms of sexual objects. They were seen as existing for the pleasure of men and expected to engage in sexual activity that was controlled and defined by their abusive male intimate partners. The interview transcripts included reports of many offensive sexualised terms used against women (“dirty bitch”, “slag”, “slut”, “nympho”) that were never applied to men. Women were seen as possessions, aggressively and jealously guarded by their male partners or ‘owners’. The survivors commonly described being routinely subjected to rape and sexual coercion and harassment in their intimate relationships. It was this most intimate part of a relationship that abusive men used to cement their power and control over women.
3. Sexist script: Woman are crazy and over-emotional
Flipped script: Women are silenced with the labels of ‘crazy’ or ‘over-emotional’ when they try to talk about domestic abuse
“The courts are extremely sexist places, and there is still very much a thing about an angry loud woman is crazy, you know, and abusive men are charming … and charming with professionals.”
“…they’re painting me as this crazy woman…”
The survivors we interviewed told us how labels of mental illness had long-lasting negative implications for them. Survivors themselves were seen as problematic rather than the abuse and violence committed against them being identified as the problem. This label of ‘crazy’ was a tool perpetrators could use to threaten survivors or call their credibility into question. Being mentally ill, or showing mental or emotional distress, seemed to be all too easily linked into wider stereotypes about women as a group being supposedly unstable, over-emotional or hysterical. Labels of being mentally unwell overshadowed many of the survivors’ experiences of external responses to domestic abuse (including in court, in interactions with the police and responses from friends and family) and formed a significant barrier to accessing justice and support.
How can we flip the sexist script?
Along with our new report “Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse”, we have today launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #FlipTheSexistScript. It is impossible to disentangle women’s experiences of domestic abuse from the violence, abuse and harassment that they are subject to elsewhere in their lives. Here‘s what we think needs to happen to #FlipTheSexistScript:
Specialist domestic abuse services that are run by women, for women, understand how women’s experiences of abuse have been shaped by lifelong experiences of sexism and misogyny, and only they can help women truly recover from abuse. Similarly, those services that are led by and for women from minoritised groups, such as services for Black and minoritised survivors, disabled survivors and LGBT+ survivors are often best placed to support survivors who have been subject to multiple forms of violence and oppression. They all desperately need sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding.
The root causes of domestic abuse by men against women lie in the disempowerment, objectification and silencing of women. The response must be building empowering spaces for women, challenging inequality and giving all women a voice, including women from minoritised groups. But these are under severe threat from dangerous ‘gender neutral’ funding approaches. You can take action to flip the sexist script by signing ourpetitionto require local authorities to fund specific domestic abuse services for women.
Policy-makers and legislators must consistently recognise domestic abuse as a form of violence against women and girls. Unless we address inequality, we will never end domestic abuse.The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has brought many positive changes for survivors, but in its statutory definition (the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse) the government missed the opportunity to recognise the gendered nature of domestic abuse in law. We are also very concerned that the government is currently proposing to fragment domestic abuse from the violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy. We strongly believe that domestic abuse must be part of single comprehensive, holistic and integrated framework to address VAWG.
Structural inequalities create power imbalances in everyday life which enable violence, abuse and harassment. To end this we all must challenge all forms of discrimination and inequality. We all need to work together to call out the sexism and misogyny that enable and entitle men to demean, objectify, abuse and control women. We need to unlearn gender stereotypes, unpick power imbalances, and unteach misogyny.
Feminist writers and activists around the time when Women’s Aid began in the 1970s (and even earlier than this) warned of the harm caused by social norms about masculinity and femininity. Our research shows that these warnings remain as pertinent today as ever. It is time (in fact, it is long overdue) to recognise that until we challenge sexism and misogyny and their prominence in our society, we cannot effectively tackle domestic abuse. In other words, it’s time to flip the sexist script.
Want to join us in challenging sexism and misogyny?
Read our new report, Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse. Evidence for policy and practice here
Follow our social media campaign #FlipTheSexistScript
Sign our petition to require local authorities to fund specific domestic abuse services for women.
Join the Women’s Aid Campaign Champions and support our national campaigns on a local level, give survivors of domestic abuse a voice and help to ensure that politicians and other key decision makers are listening.
Women’s Aid is working in partnership with Yves Saint Laurent Beauty to educate children and young people about intimate partner violence and challenge assumptions about gender, power and equality. If you work with children and young people, sign up to become an Expect Respect Advocate.
The government has introduced policies to improve access to products and education about periods. These are steps in the right direction. However, these policies will not end menstrual stigma.
All state-schools can now request free period products using an online portal. This momentous policy development means that products are accessible to young people who cannot otherwise afford them.
However, the policy has faced implementation issues and these appear to be, at least partly, explained by menstrual stigma. The scheme continued during lockdown, but Plan International UK’s survey with a representative sample of more than 1,000 14-21-year-old girls found that during this time:
30% of girls had issues accessing products during lockdown
42% of these girls did not know where to get hold of free products
30% felt too ashamed to seek out a source of free products
Furthermore, the BBC report that only 40% of eligible schools are signed up to the scheme. If young people are too ashamed to ask their schools for support and the government is not tackling taboos and promoting free products, the opt-in scheme will struggle.
From this year, Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSE) is compulsory in all schools. Statutory guidance for teaching RSE has also been updated for the first time since 2000 and states that young people should learn about “menstrual wellbeing” and that schools should help girls manage periods.
The government has also released additional non-compulsory RSE teacher training and advice, which includes information about periods. However, neither the statutory guidance nor training mention tackling stigma.
Furthermore, the DfE’s bizarre advice that schools should not use resources produced by organisations that take “extreme political stances” such as anti-capitalism may undermine effective RSE and menstruation education. This advice is non-compulsory and it is unclear whether schools ever use anti-capitalist RSE resources. However, as Shout Out UK highlight, it is unclear how “schools are to facilitate a sufficiently diverse dialogue” on RSE topics (e.g. gender, periods and taboo) “without limiting themselves unnecessarily for fear that the resources they wish to use could be interpreted as being in breach of the guidelines.”
Advertisers’ portrayals of menstruation appear to be shifting. As Camilla Mørk Røstvik points out, many contemporary period product advertisements are designed to appeal to modern consumers who care about social justice. For instance, THINX were the first menstrual product company to feature a trans man in an advertisement.
It is encouraging to see companies taking these steps, but it would be naïve to ignore conflicts of interest. Companies aim to make sales and still promote products that hide periods. It therefore seems unlikely that advertisements alone can end menstrual stigma.
Critiquing menstrual stigma should be part of the every day. Policy makers should work with education practitioners and young people to capitalise on the opportunities presented by compulsory RSE and free period products. Menstrual stigma is a widespread, damaging problem that needs to be solved.
Kate’s PhD topic focuses on menstruation stigma, discourses in advertising and Relationships and Sex Education.
For more information on our PhD in Social Policy click here.
We caught up with Lucy Bull; recent MSc Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health graduate to get some top tips on how to get the most out of your postgraduate study…
Hello there, would you mind telling me a little bit about yourself?
“I’m Lucy, I’m a 40-year-old mum of three children and I NEVER thought I could do an MSc! I run a nursing home in Devon with my mum but wanted to build my own expertise to support my work. The umbrella of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health seemed to be a good fit, serving as a platform for future specialism. It seemed like a good course that would fit alongside the expertise of our nurses in the home.”
Why did you choose University of Bristol, for your studies?
“My background is the arts; I worked for the BBC for many years. This MSc meant I could commute from Devon, retrain my artsy brain into a science one and gain expertise. My love of Bristol now encompasses a deep loyalty to the University of Bristol, for its amazing facilities, sublime course content and world class teaching staff.”
Talk about a project/initiative you’ve got involved in whilst studying here?
“My dissertation dovetailed my media experience with my newfound scientific thinking, as I analysed the media coverage of recent physical activity guidelines. I discovered that there is a real lack of confidence in media skills within academia. Because this MSc is so good at developing research skills and scientific writing, I now feel more competent at searching out niche areas of research.”
How has completing your MSc helped with your career or further education?
“My knowledge base is much stronger, and I can research key topics exceptionally quickly. This has been crucial during Covid to pull together evidence-based guidance for the nursing home. I can speak more authoritatively to the team and they have confidence that I know what I am talking about!”
And finally, do you have any advice or tips for people who are thinking about undertaking a Masters, or continuing their education?
“Yes! I wrote a twitter thread about it. I felt a bit at sea when I started and wanted to help others feel less lost.
Try and find your people, whether you are learning online or in person. Reach out, through whatsapp or uni email; most will be happy to hear from a friendly soul. Be kind to the silent ones.
2. Find your lecturers on Twitter, learn who they follow and why. #academictwitter is a fascinating, useful rabbit hole.
3. If you like a lecture, tell the lecturer. You never know when your paths may cross in the future.
4. There are NO stupid questions. Every answer helps someone.
5. Embrace statistics and if you don’t understand a stat, don’t use it. Push your limits of statistical comprehension. Chances are you’ll understand more than you thought.
6. Get to know your librarian, use their knowledge. Learn Endnote or Mendeley and their capacity to help your referencing. Choose one and learn it.
7. Get to grips with the Assignment template in Word and how to use it. Do it sooner than later.
8. If you’re new to scientific writing, don’t be scared. There’s a wealth of resources at your fingertips. University of Bristol Study Skills run some incredible courses. Use your personal tutor and always ask for feedback after assignments.
9. You’re about to step into a world of fascinating study led by world experts in their field. Use their intellect, ask questions, don’t let imposter syndrome silence you! Your teachers are clever, brilliant people but above all they are kind and they want you to flourish. This is your springboard, to new friends, jobs and opportunities.”
Thank you Lucy for your wise words! I’m sure this will help maybe new students navigate their way through postgraduate life.
Dr Natasha Mulvihill, lecturer in Criminology at the School for Policy Studies and member of the Centre for Gender and Violence Researchhas published work on prostitution and sex work, domestic abuse, honour abuse and sexual exploitation. In this blog she talks about impact of COVID:19 on sex workers.
Sex workers, like the majority of society, have suffered from the effects of austerity – and COVID-19 has left them even more exposed. Dr Natasha Mulvihill, argues that legal and welfare reform are needed to enable choice and reduce harm.
In 2019, I co-authored a Home Office-commissioned report with colleagues at the University of Bristol on the nature and prevalence of prostitution and sex work in England and Wales. As part of that research, we heard from over 500 individuals involved in selling sex, and followed up with more than 40 within that group to learn more about their experiences. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, I have been thinking about our participants in that research and how they are managing.
The challenges facing those who sell sex both in the UK and around the world during the pandemic have been articulated in academic journals, by organisations working with and representing sex workers (including NUM, ECP, Changing Lives, Beyond the Streets, SWARM and One25) and on news and social media. Of course, many of those selling sex are unaffiliated to any group or support organisation: they work alone in privacy or remain outside the public and media gaze, through choice or otherwise.
There is stark commonality, but also diversity across the sex industry. Most are working in-person, providing sexual services, including full sex either at home, outdoors or in another venue such as a brothel, parlour or hotel; others are working through phonelines or online, webcamming or making clips to order, for example. Given the lockdown, there has been some movement to online, but many will have continued to work in-person. Most sellers are women, including trans women. There are also a significant number of male sex workers, as well as those who identify with other genders or none.
Some are successful entrepreneurs, running their own websites, operating from dedicated premises, registered as self-employed and paying tax. A proportion of these may therefore have met the criteria to apply for the UK Self-Employment Income Support Scheme set up in response to the lockdown. However, the Home Office research suggested that the majority of those selling sex are either doing so temporarily, intermittently or long term to make ends meet, including as a supplement to other paid work. Many are caring (often solo) for others, including children, partners or parents; some are managing long-term physical illness or mental health issues; many are migrants, some with insecure status; some are students; some involved are victims of partner abuse, or are misusing drugs or alcohol. Some may register their earnings formally; most will not. I would term this majority as ‘sex workers’ or ‘individuals engaged in survival sex’ (see Mulvihill, 2019), and it these groups that are the focus of this commentary. There are also a significant number of mainly women and girls who are coerced into, and abused by others through, ‘prostitution’ – which, while recognising the overlap and movement between categories, I would rather term ‘sexual exploitation’.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought into sharp focus two issues for those engaged in sex work and survival sex in the UK: the inadequacy of the legal environment, and the inadequacy of the welfare safety net and public provision.
In England and Wales, it is legal to sell and to buy sex. However, myriad activities around the sale of sex are illegal, such as pimping, kerb-crawling, soliciting on the street or working with one or more other people from a premises, as this constitutes a ‘brothel’. These laws have been layered piecemeal over decades and are unevenly enforced, more so given tightening police resources. They are ostensibly aimed at preventing exploitation, but stem as much from a concern to keep such activity out of public view.
Whether you understand selling sex as a job like any other or as an outcome of patriarchy and other inequalities – or both – most can agree that sex workers should not be criminalised. Governments should seek to allow sellers to work together in a small-scale and self-managed way. Such brothels already exist up and down the country, but sex workers risk inconsistent policing, depending on where they are located. The illegal status of brothels places barriers to reporting violence or other crimes against sellers. Those selling sex on the street should not be criminalised. Equally, the concerns of communities in relation to both indoor and outdoor sex work need to be recognised and negotiated. Rather than seeking to manage outdoor sellers, far more resource should be invested in tackling the drivers for street sex, which are well documented (see for example, Matthews et al., 2014; Sanders, 2007).
The legal status of sex workers links to the second issue of access to welfare and collective provision. The UK, like other liberalising economies, has seen a steady erosion of the welfare safety net. The threshold for eligibility is ever higher and the benefit received ever lower. State dependence is stigmatised and personal responsibility prized (though inheritances and other financial support from one’s family are encouraged). Sex workers, like the majority of society, are vulnerable. Not vulnerable in the sense of helpless or lacking resourcefulness, ability or graft, but rather vulnerable through exposure to changing individual circumstances and unforgiving welfare and legal contexts. Many of us can face this sudden exposure when we find ourselves caring for others, made unemployed, discriminated against, migrate or become ill. Surveys in the US and UK suggest that at least a third of millennials, for example, have no savings put by; and another third would only have three months pay if their income stopped. So a safety net, whether that is short or longer term, is crucial both to uphold human dignity but also to avoid the future multiplier costs to the state of economic and social exclusion.
Yet austerity and the difficulties in accessing Universal Credit have pushed many into exchanging sex for money. How ironic that now the COVID-19 crisis is affecting mainstream workers, the government has adopted a ‘pay now, verify later’ approach to Universal Credit – and that borrowing, minimised for a decade in favour of austerity, has reached unprecedented levels in order to stave off a depression. Had we prioritised spending after the 2008 financial crisis to invest in a fairer safety net and more robust public provision, we might have been better equipped to meet the challenge of the pandemic.
Around the world, those who sell sex (including those who add significantly to national income through the tourism and leisure industries) have found that they either have no access to government income support (France, Thailand, Japan or Kenya) or minimal access (Brazil or Mexico). In New Zealand, by contrast, where sex work is decriminalised, applying for help has been more straightforward.
The pandemic has temporarily allowed us to see alternatives to the current order. It is possible to hold quite divergent views on prostitution and sex work, yet at the same time agree that punitive criminal justice or welfare measures appear only to harm those who sell sex – indeed, harm all those exposed by social inequity or a change in circumstances. By lifting those selling sex out of social, economic and legal grey zones and giving them the resources to stand in equality with others, they can determine their own futures.
In his latest blog, Dr Oscar Berglund, Lecturer in International Public and Social Policy, explores the unusual methods by which the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement seeks to effect policy change. Extinction Rebellion (XR) have again been in the news recently. After occupying parts of central London over two weeks in April, their Summer Uprising in five UK cities in July, the last two weeks has seen the Autumn Uprising in London. All these protests involve disruption, breaking the law and activists seeking arrest.
Emotions are running high with many objecting to the disruption. At the same time, it has got people and the media talking about climate change. XR clearly represent something new and unusual that people get annoyed or enthused by. But what is the point of the disruption to daily life, law-breaking and voluntary arrests?
Another aspect setting XR apart from more anarchist social movements is their targets. For anarchists, direct action should be prefigurative, meaning to incorporate the aim in the means of protest. Making city centres car-free and blocking access to banks that finance fossil fuel companies are prefigurative protests. Intentionally getting arrested is not; and many experienced activists have been critical of this key tactic of XR.
The movement claims to practice civil disobedience but that is also a confusing label. Civil disobedience developed during the 20th century as a way of understanding and justifying law-breaking protests in liberal democracies. Much of this was in relation to the US civil rights movement. Liberal political thinkers like Hannah Arendt and John Rawls explored when and how disobedience was legitimate in a democracy.
In some ways XR fit with liberal civil disobedience. That disobedience should always be a last resort chimes well with XR’s claim that time is running out and traditional campaigning has proven unsuccessful. The voluntary arrests resonate with the liberal onus on open and conscientious law-breaking that accepts law enforcement. Indeed, the intentional arrests take this conscientious approach to a new level.
However, on two other crucial points, XR break with the liberal civil disobedience tradition. Firstly, civil disobedience is generally aimed at showing the majority of the public that specific laws are unjust. XR do not seem to focus on this majority-building. They do not engage in much discussion with climate change deniers. Their disruption antagonises people who do not share their fears and frustration with the inaction of governments. Instead, XR’s tactic is to get a significant but still small part of the population to participate in disruption. What is important is then to get 3.5% so incensed that they take to the streets. It is not to convince 51% that it is the right thing to do.
Secondly, liberal civil disobedience remains within a ‘fidelity to law’ overall. It is okay to break certain unjust laws as long as you respect the state’s laws generally. The aim is then to get the state to have better, more just, laws. But for XR, the social contract has already been broken. The state has failed to take necessary action on climate change, thereby putting its citizens at risk. Disruption and law-breaking are therefore justified.
XR’s tactics are not based on how social movements have achieved policy change in liberal democracies. It is based on how dictatorships have been toppled. It draws directly on Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s Why Civil Resistance Works, where they argue that non-violence is more effective than violence. The XR tactic is therefore based on how to achieve revolutions, not on how to get governments to respond to the will of the majority.
There are reasons to be skeptical about the relevance of this research for addressing climate change. The 3.5% limit applies to such a small number of historical cases that no conclusions can be based on it. More importantly perhaps, in most cases of regime change, not much else changes. Many climate change activists see saving the world as incompatible with capitalism as a system that depends on economic growth on a finite planet. Most cases of regime change have not resulted in abandoning capitalism, quite the opposite.
There are however good reasons for why XR’s radical tactics resonate with so many. People experiencing climate change through hot summers and other extreme weather increases the sense of urgency. More importantly perhaps, in an era of political polarisation, more extreme action becomes more likely. The legitimacy of the state and its politicians has eroded on both the left and right. In this country not least because of Brexit.
The recent protests in London will have gained XR both new supporters and new detractors. The less tolerant attitude of the police will certainly be a topic for discussion within the movement and tactics may very well have to change. It also remains to be seen how the court cases pan out, which will affect people’s willingness to be arrested. But climate change activism will not go away and XR have created a strong brand in that demand for policy change.
How do you decide when to retire in a society like Britain where the formal ‘retirement age’ no longer exists? Do you have a big enough pension and/or savings to retire early? Does your employer want you to continue working after you reach 60? Or, are you planning to sell your house to cover the cost of post-retirement life?
The process of retirement is becoming more complex and differentiated in terms of timing and financial resources. In many advanced economies, ‘active ageing policies’ encourage older workers to remain in the labour market longer. However, the reasons and opportunities to do so depend on both institutional systems (e.g. retirement age, social security, attitudes of employers) and individual capital (e.g. skills, pensions, savings, housing assets).
As part of a current ESRC funded project, we bring ‘housing’ more fully into the analysis of retirement inequality, which is absent from existing research.
The first workshop was held in Tokyo (Keio University) in July 2019 to facilitate knowledge exchange between the project members and non-academic stakeholders. Japan is the world most aged society. More than a quarter (27.7%) of the population are already aged 65 and over. Despite the formal retirement age, in practice, Japanese people work longer in line with an increase of pensionable age. Reform of the Act for Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons, which obliged companies to employ their workers up to pensionable age, supports this trend. Scheduled 20% reduction of pension benefit will also strengthen the trend in next decades.
As part of the workshop, leading policy makers and practitioners in related areas of employment, finance, housing and city planning presented current situations and emerging issues facing ‘super-aged’ Japanese society:
Naoto Ohmi (Executive Deputy President, Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO) argued that securing employment opportunities up to age 70 was an important policy agenda in Japan. The majority of those in the late 60s who are still in employment mentioned financial reasons for extending their working life. Trade Unions continue to work towards raising mandatory retirement to age 65. It is urgent to close the gap between the retirement age and the pensionable age.
Takeshi Sakai (Japan Housing Finance Agency) led the development of reverse mortgage products between 2014 and 2018. Reserve mortgage is not widely known or used among older homeowners in Japan, but it is gaining popularity, partly thanks to the promotion by housing developers. However, depreciation of house price remains a major barrier in post-growth Japan in order to further promote the use of housing assets in later life through this type of mortgage products. Equity release currently remains an option largely for the wealthy ‘propertied-class’ but has potential to support those on low incomes.
Titled as ‘the utilisation of assets in later life’, Kazuhiro Sugaya (Senior Manager, Pension Consultation Division, Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation) located the Japanese social security system in the international context. The composition of household wealth has shifted over the years, but housing assets are the main component of household wealth in Japan. He argued the importance of ‘financial gerontology’, the system enabling to extend individuals’ own financial assets at the arrival of the ‘centennial life’.
Ageing is a serious concern in Tama City. Yusai Takei (New Town Redevelopment Section Head, Tama City Government, Tokyo) discussed current strategies in order to revitalise the city’s ageing New Towns (developed in the 1970s) and its residents. Not only rebuilding old housing complexes but also the city is developing systems to facilitate residential moves of older households according to their life-course need. By attracting younger families, it is indeed important to achieve age mix in the neighbourhoods to sustain the healthy living environment.
For many participants, it was the first time they had had the opportunity to attend a knowledge exchange workshop. Many agreed it was ‘beneficial for policy makers to exchange knowledge and ideas with academics, practitioners and experts working in other fields.’ Participated stakeholders tend to focus on tasks in their own fields such as city planning or housing. For example, “presentations about employment were fresh and made me think the importance of creating employment for older workers in New Town” (Mr Takei). The UK experiences, presented by Professors Flynn and Izuhara, also provided food for thought. “Transition from work to retirement is a major issue for pensioners. The evidence from the UK contributed to our understanding” (Mr Ohmi). Another participant wanted to know the mechanism of the UK housing market and system to sustain housing prices as the key to facilitate the use of housing assets in later life in Japan.
For the next 8 months, the project team will work collaboratively to examine identified comparative themes such as opportunities and constraints of older workers in the contrasting institutional systems and housing/labour markets; and the impact of personal wealth on retirement trajectories between Japan and the UK using existing micro data.
This international project is funded by the UK Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) UK-Japan Connections Grant. The Principal Investigator is Professor Misa Izuhara, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, UK. For more information and to the team visit the project page.
Professor Val Williams explores the use of Conversation Analysis to improve communication in dementia settings.
Living with dementia is not a prison sentence, and sensitively conducted social research can help us all to develop more confidence in supporting people to live positive lives after a dementia diagnosis. This ESRC funded research carried out at the School for Policy Studies from 2015-18 was about communication – not the communication skills or deficits of people living with dementia, but the skills of their communication partners. This blog therefore raises the question: ‘Can the skills to communicate well in dementia settings be learnt?’ and reflects on process of creating the 5 co-produced dementia communication training videos being released this week.
In the light of rapid increases in dementia, in the UK and elsewhere, it is generally assumed that research is urgently needed which helps us better understand how to prevent and to treat the condition. While that remains true, it is also important to listen to the voices of people living with dementia, and to look at ways that could improve their everyday lives. In one of the projects in the ‘Getting Things Changed’ programme, members of the ‘Forget-me-Not’ group in Swindon co-produced research with Joe Webb and Val Williams. That means they were actively involved, in advising, in analysing, and pushing the research in directions they felt were important. They felt their lives were enhanced by talking with other people, by getting to know new friends in peer support groups, and by improving the attitudes and skills of all those around them. What they really wanted was to be in control of their own decisions as long as they could and to enjoy their lives and new-found identities. As one of the research group, Sandie Read, says:
“Everyone will tell you the same thing. You’re diagnosed, and then it’s ‘You’ve got dementia. Go home and we’ll see you next month’. What we need is for someone, like a counsellor or someone else with dementia, to tell us at that point ‘Life isn’t over’. You can go on for ten or fifteen years. And you’re not told, you’re just left. And I thought, tomorrow my day had come. The fear and the anxiety sets in, and then the depression sets in, doesn’t it? I think when you’re diagnosed, you should be given a book. And on the front of the book, in big letters, it should say: ‘Don’t panic’.”
The five communication training videos launched this week are all led by members of the Forget-me-Not research group, who appear on screen – both speaking for themselves, and acting out roles based on data we collected during the research. Following the tenets of Conversation Analysis methods (Sidnell and Stivers, 2014), we were interested in the fine-grained detail of the interactions which go on between people with dementia and the other people they meet in their daily lives. Many would consider Conversation Analysis a technical and inaccessible method, but the basic ideas about interaction were, for the Forget-me-Not members, the bread-and-butter of their everyday experience. As we filmed what was happening in the dementia groups where we had obtained consent, Roy, Sandie and Harry helped us make sense of the data from their point of view.
One early example of this can be witnessed in the training video ‘Talking About the Past’. Harry and Roy understand the issues faced by people in their position, who may not easily recall details of their own past life: “When we do our life story now, and people say to us, you know, ‘How did it happen?’, often, I think, are we saying it how it happened? Because I think we are now at the – we can’t remember it all. It’s – and are we saying how it happened, or are we just filling in the gaps? Because I often think about that, you know. Is it a different story than what I said before, because I can’t always remember. Every time I do my life story, it starts off and comes out differently each time.” But when they saw some examples of people being asked about their past in dementia activity group settings, their focus was not just on the person with dementia, but on the way the conversation was conducted. They felt that the person with dementia could easily feel as if they were being interrogated. Questions were asked which seemed meaningless, their answers were never adequate, and the support workers easily slipped into the role of teacher – praising them for ‘good answers’ or for knowing things which the ‘teacher’ already knew.
We all do this type of thing. It is part of the array of interactional resources which we draw on in ordinary conversation all the time, and when someone is seen to be having difficulty in responding, we tend to probe, to prompt them, or even to cross-question them. We also mostly have experience of conversations in which we ourselves get cut out, or where our contributions do not appear to be valued. Supporters in dementia groups do a fantastic job, and have more experience of managing these situations than most of us. So what can our research offer?
We wanted to go further than just providing ‘tips for talk’: there are already resources and training materials which for instance urge dementia supporters to ‘be patient’, ‘listen’, ‘allow waiting time’. But we could see from our data that so much depends on what has just gone before: Conversation Analysis is based on this idea of sequencing. Every remark someone makes reveals how they have interpreted the previous comment or question, and a neat example of this principle happened in our data when a person living with dementia was shown a mug from a Memory Box, and asked the seemingly open question ‘What do you think of that?’; he eventually came out with ‘What do you mean, think?’ Harry and the others in the Forget-me-Not group suggested that these types of questions simply do not work in these situations. It is far more effective to remind someone directly of something they have said, or to mention a fact or situation which might bring back their memory of the past. In fact, the group members could demonstrate how they would do this themselves, in their own group, where they know each other so well as friends. And all of these insights are incorporated into the first of the training videos, ‘Talking About the Past’, as well as being reflected in an article we wrote for a Discourse journal (Williams V., Webb J., Dowling S., Gall M.. (2018). Direct and indirect ways of managing epistemic asymmetries when eliciting memories. Discourse Studies, 21 (2), pp. 199–215.
Our training materials and research are featured this month in a piece published by Joe Webb in the Journal of Dementia Care, and we know that practitioners and trainers are keen to use the videos with all those who communicate regularly with people with dementia. We are very grateful to the practitioners and managers who helped us shape our material into videos which they would find useful for training. Above all, the videos are there as a resource, to get people thinking and reflecting on their own interactions, and to try out something new. As Joe Webb comments, ‘the materials we have produced are a collaboration, moving past traditional approaches to Conversation Analysis by incorporating the views, expertise and lived experience of the Forget-me-Not co researchers into understanding more about how everyday communication works. They are not intended as a prescriptive ‘one size fits all’ approach, but to get the viewer to reflect on how these common, everyday situations come up in interactions, and how they would deal with them. Becoming aware and attuned to the fine-grained way talk is produced is a great way of potentially improving practice. We are hugely indebted to the fantastic staff and participants who shared their skills with us’.
We maintain therefore that Conversation Analysis is not just an ‘academic exercise’ to untangle the rules and conventions of ordinary interaction. It can be a useful tool, providing evidence to help us analyse what is happening in dementia conversations, and in helping us to change things for the better. And nowhere is this more effective than via the direct voice of those who have lived experience of dementia. As Roy James, a Forget-me-Not member, comments on the initial recruitment video for our project:
“It does help to talk to people. That’s what this research is about. Do you have somebody to listen to you? If you don’t, find someone who will listen to you, just talk to them. Think of the other people you’re helping. You might not know the other people, you might not even meet them. But this research, down the line, could give a whole new aspect to someone’s life.”
Dr Wenjing Zhang and Dr Paul Willis from the Centre for Research in Health and Social Care, School for Policy Studies, write on the importance of equality and inclusion within care environments and the launch of the Care under the Rainbow digital resource.
17th May 2019 marks IDAHOT Day – International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. This is a significant day for a number of reasons. For LGBT+ groups and organisations it’s about recognising and speaking out against the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and all other people who belong to sexual and gender minority groups around the world. 17th May also marks the date when the World Health Organisation decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990 (subsequently removed in 1992) – this was another successful challenge to institutional homophobia. The UK Government’s recent survey of over 108,000 LGBT+ respondents shows us that we still need IDAHOT day and other local and international campaigns against sexuality and gender-based violence and discrimination. The survey reports that 68% of respondents with a minority sexual orientation said they had avoided holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative response. 40% of respondents had experienced a hostile or violent incident in the 12 months before the survey because they were LGBT+.
In the UK, LGBT+ people who are over 60 years of age have lived through decades of criminalisation (until partial decriminalisation of sex between men in 1967), pathologisation (treatment of homosexual as a mental disorder and ‘unhealthy lifestyle’), and social and moral condemnation of same-sex relationships and desires across communities. For older lesbians, their existence has only been recently recognised in law with the implementation of equal rights law over the last 18 years. For trans individuals, the Gender Recognition Act in 2004 finally enabled people with a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to change their legal gender and marked a shift in the State starting to protect the civil rights of trans individuals.
Living in a hostile and oppressive climate across one’s lifetime can lead to deep mistrust and low confidence in legal bodies, institutions and helping professionals, such as mental health professionals, GPs, social care workers and housing officers. We know from Stonewall research conducted in 2011 that older LGB adults (55+) report lower confidence in health and social care professionals compared to heterosexual older adults – in turn this may prevent older LGBT+ individuals from seeking health and care support from service providers when they need it later life. In care and nursing homes older LGBT+ people are often invisible, and their personal lives, histories and relationships can be hidden behind a double-layered curtain of ageist and heterosexist/ cisgenderist assumptions. Organisations such as Age UK and Opening Doors London are working hard to challenge these assumptions and to create safer, more equal environments for older LGBT+ people across services, including care and nursing homes. We’ve sought to make our own contribution to creating inclusive care environments for older LGBT+ people with the creation and launch of our new online learning resource titled ‘Care Under the Rainbow’.
On Friday 17th May 2019 the University of Bristol and The Diversity Trust jointly hosted the ‘Care Under the Rainbow Launch Event’. This launch showcased a new online resource for care home staff and managers for making care homes more inclusive for older people who identify as LGBT+. The aim of this new resource is to provide managers and staff teams with tools for leading discussions and educational sessions about the importance of promoting equality between residents in care homes and of valuing diversity amongst staff and residents.
This new resource includes four short films on the inclusion of LGBT+ residents (Care home staff talking, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual inclusion, Creating Trans inclusion and Werner and Alan’s Story), case studies for use in staff training and development, top tips and things you can do for making care homes more inclusive, and legal timeline highlighting key changes in equality law and policy in England and Wales. The learning materials and films are free and hosted on the Diversity Trust website: Care under the Rainbow. This resource has been co-produced by LGBT+ individuals with the involvement and advice of older LGBT+ individuals and the work has been supported by a wide range of organisations, including Skills for Care and Stonewall Cymru.
Here are some ways in which care home managers and staff might use the learning materials:
Staff team meeting – watch 1-2 of the films together and/or discuss 1-2 of the case studies to raise discussion about the importance of respect of equality and diversity among residents.
Recruitment exercise – use one of the case studies in interviews with new staff members as a way of assessing applicants’ attitudes and values.
Induction – request new staff to view the films and read the documents online and then discuss 1-2 of the case studies together to gauge how new staff members would respond to residents from similar backgrounds.
Continuous professional development – organise a half-day training session for all staff. Start with watching the films together, test participants knowledge of the law with the legal timeline (e.g. quick quiz) and finish with discussion of the case studies in pairs or small groups of 3-4 participants.
In addition to the showcase of these learning materials, the launch event included the following talks: Paul Willis (Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol) presented messages from recent research on health and social care, ageing and LGBT+ people in later life; Berkeley Wilde (Director and Founder, The Diversity Trust) talked through the project story and showed the audience how to access this learning material; and Alice Wallace (Director, Opening Doors London) introduced the ‘Pride in Care’ project being led by Opening Doors London.
A panel discussion was also held on making care homes more inclusive. The panel included Paul Willis, Berkeley Wider, Alice Wallace, Ian Boulton (South Gloucestershire Councillor for Staple Hill Ward), Stuart Wright (Dementia Care Lead, Brunelcare) and Jenny-Anne Bishop OBE (Chairperson & Outreach and Training coordinator for The Unique Transgender Network North Wales and TransForum Manchester).
We were delighted that a very diverse audience came along to participate in the launch event including care home staff and managers and members of the LGBT+ community. Following the launch, we will be disseminating the learning resource to a wider audience, including care and nursing homes across South West England and South Wales, and would like to explore future research and practice-focused collaborations.
If you would like to find out more information about the launch event and project story, please search our twitter hashtag #careunderrainbow or visit the project website, hosted by the Diversity Trust.
Dr Geetanjali Gangoli, Senior Leturer and researcher in the Centre for Gender Violence Research recommends further action to eliminate gender violence within UK Universities.
The elimination of gender-based violence (GBV) is a human rights priority both internationally and domestically. The new prominence of movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #MeTooPhD brought to the forefront of public consciousness the prevalence of GBV and the scale of the impact on women’s everyday lives in education, the home, and the workplace. The World Health Organisation found those experiencing GBV were more than two times as likely to experience mental health issues and thus declared it “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”.
The limited existing evidence on sexual and domestic abuse at UK universities
Universities function within national and international legal frameworks. However, there are no specific legislative duties on UK universities in terms of data collection, prevention, and response akin to those under USA law, such as; Title IX 1972; the Clery Act 1990/1998; VAWA Act 1994/2013; and Campus SaVE Act 2013.
After the UUK Taskforce: Changing the Culture recommendations in October 2016 there was a flurry of ad hoc university activity stimulated by HEFCE’s (now Office for Students) Catalyst funding pilot projects, including bystander training, reporting systems, and awareness campaigns. UUK (2018) has since reported to Ministers that there were variations in developments across the sector, and there is a need for senior leadership to commit to long term planning and resourcing of interventions, as well as data collection. University responses remain patchy with the Women and Equalities Select Committee concluding that the current voluntary approach is not working. The final evaluations of the Catalyst projects are due this spring, including the findings of a survey to establish what progress has been made against the Changing the Culture recommendations.
Moving towards more consistent university responses in the UK
In March 2019, the Government Strategy Refresh ‘Ending Violence against Women and Girls’ was published and included a recommendation to generate regular data on the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment. We currently await the government response.
Speaking at a conference in March 2019, Jessica Trahar, Head of Student Welfare and Safeguarding at the Office for Students, talked of linking safeguarding around sexual violence and mental health into university Access and Participation Plans, and making funding dependent on adequate provision for victim-survivors in universities.
While the above mentioned studies begin to shed light on the problem of gender-based violence in universities, and we support these most recent proposals, there remains overarching, fundamental gaps:
Existing studies should be supplemented with a national study that: a) uses the most robust methodology, including random sampling, b) includes both staff and student victimisation, and c) incorporates domestic as well as sexual abuse.
University prevention and response ‘plans’ remain ad hoc and piecemeal, primarily because universities remain relatively unaffected if they do not respond. This must be addressed at a structural level either as a statutory or mandatory
At an institutional level, Universities must be guided to develop strategic responses to GBV based on evidence.
An evidence based framework should be constructed for the specific context of UK universities, enabling such a comprehensive and cohesive strategic responses
Addressing the above will help to prevent the proliferation of studies that are of insufficient quality, and the development of responses with no strategic vision or little evidence base.
The Office of Students and the Home Office need to work together with Universities UK, universities, students’ unions, victim-survivors’ services, victim-survivors themselves, the criminal justice system, and academics with expertise in the field, to develop robust evidence-based responses to gender-based violence at university.
This blog was first published on the University of Bath IPR blog on 2nd May 2019 and was written with Dr Tina Skinner, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath. Dr Cassandra Jones,Postdoctorate Research Fellow in Law at the University of Exeter. Dr Rachel Fenton, Senior Lecturer in the Law School at the University of Exeter. Dr Olivia Smith, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Anglia Ruskin University and Janet Keliher, a PhD Candidate at the University of Exeter.