This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.




In the workfare state, poverty is always an individual failing

In the Media

The single mum quoted is a member of WAR

The welfare reform bill has a message: long-term unemployment will be punished, regardless of health or dependants
Libby Brooks,, Thursday 11 June 2009 22.00 BST

It is hard to decide what to object to most, so opaque and randomly synthesised is the draft legislation in the welfare reform bill. Perhaps it should be the clause allowing for the abolition of the fundamental state safety net of income support, or the privatisation of back-to-work services that will benefit only shareholders. Maybe it's the requirement that single parents with children as young as three should be available for "work-related activity" or face sanctions, with the adequacy of childcare provision to be judged by a jobcentre adviser. Others might choose the piloting of "work for your benefits" schemes, which will undercut the minimum wage, offering as little as £1.73 an hour to claimants who have been unemployed for more than two years.

The bill is so lacking in concrete detail and so wide-ranging in scope – from compulsory drug-testing of claimants (opposed by Liberty) to the criminalisation of women who refuse to name the father of their children on birth certificates (opposed by Gingerbread) – that campaigners have been left befuddled as to where to concentrate their energies.

Despite this embarrassment of riches, one woman with firsthand experience has no problem pinpointing her least favoured gem – that women escaping domestic violence should be given but one month's grace before having to comply with job-seeking conditions. "By the time you get out, you don't know who you are any more," Marianne told me. "I was like a beaten dog in a corner. It took me three months to find somewhere to live. If I had gone for an interview, they'd have thought I was a nutter. Yet my future is now supposed to be at the discretion of a jobcentre adviser, who isn't even properly trained. It's a joke."

The bill is now in the House of Lords where a Liberal Democrat amendment to extend that grace period to a year will be discussed. Whether or not the lords back the amendment, the implication would remain that it is plausible to legislate a deadline for recovery from trauma. A handful of other amendments, as well as John McDonnell's early-day motion tabled on Monday to maintain income support, offer faint hope that the blunt force of these reforms could be softened. But this is last-chance saloon stuff.

Following the principled walkout last week by the architect of this legislation, James Purnell, there is speculation about how Yvette Cooper – his successor at the Department of Work and Pensions – will navigate the welfare reform agenda. A slim chance exists that she may reconsider the do-ability of getting more people into employment in the middle of a recession. But most assume she will see the reforms through, and then close down controversy in advance of a general election.

As the newly appointed chancellor in 1997, Gordon Brown stated his government's aim was to "rebuild the welfare state around the work ethic". More than a decade on, this has been realised in the starkest sense. The fact is that compulsion and discretion and "personalised conditionality" equal, however fiercely Labour might deny it, workfare – an alternative vision of the welfare system imported from the US that replaces entitlement with reciprocity, and social need with availability to work – all of which establishes poverty and unemployment as individual failings.

The DWP has wilfully ignored comparative research it commissioned that found the model to be counter-productive, detracting from the time people have to actively job-seek, making them less likely to take risks and targeting vulnerable groups for sanction. The language used may be circumspect, but the aims of workfare are all too explicit – to police benefit entitlement and send a message to claimants that long-term unemployment will be punished, regardless of your caring responsibilities, and your physical or mental health.

Westminster may be in the papers for its disharmony at present, but this bill enjoyed an untroubled passage through the Commons – precisely because an ideological consensus now exists between Labour and Conservatives, which values stick over carrot, couches coercion in the rhetoric of empowerment, and is in essence closest to the workhouse principle that there is a high price to be paid for unemployment.

And so, even more alarming than the impact of these measures is the potential for a future Conservative government to develop them. Note that David Freud, who advised Purnell on welfare reform, defected to the Conservatives in February. David Cameron has been keen to distance himself from the Brownite work-and-more-work ethic, averring that a society comprised solely of good producers and better consumers is not conducive to wellbeing. But in the spring of 2008 he proposed that the unemployed undertake voluntary work in return for benefits, while George Osborne said recently that welfare spending would be one of the biggest areas of saving for the Conservatives. Labour will have a hard time shouting down from the opposition benches cuts that they opened the door to.

Interestingly, the sliver of cigarette paper that separates the parties only wrinkles in the case of the availability of parents of very young children to work. Research by Iain Duncan Smith and the Centre for Social Justice has repeatedly emphasised the importance of early years care and state support for committed (married) couples. How the Tories square this with the inconvenient existence of single parents remains to be seen. been greatly exaggerated, suggesting that the human condition is best understood in terms of interdependency: "People are sometimes autonomous, sometimes dependent, sometimes providing care for those who are dependent."

In a recession, when worklessness is no longer considered the province of the workshy, there is a genuine opportunity to reconfigure our understanding of welfare, both in philosophy and in ­practice. It will be devastating for too many people if the discussion continues to revolve around compulsion.