Interview with Claire Glasman, WinVisible, in memory of Paul Nicolson
To mark the anniversary of our founder’s death his daughter Krissie Nicolson interviews Paul Nicolson’s friends and peers for a series of blogs.
Interview with Claire Glasman, founder member and co-ordinator of WinVisible
One year on from his death I am pleased to say that we can finally announce a date for my Dad’s memorial. A celebration of his remarkable life will be held the day before Remembrance Sunday on Saturday 13th November 2021, at St Paul's Church, Tottenham. With restrictions slowly being lifted we are desperately hopeful that we can invite the whole community and give Dad the send-off he deserves and hold the event that we’ve all been longing for, all of us together again.
When he was alive, I would love to ask my Dad about his work because he would relish the opportunity to share stories of demonstrations, academic research, community meetings, his latest letter in The Guardian or event at Portcullis House.
So in remembrance of this exceptional man, I thought it would be fitting to interview some of the equally incredible community leaders that he worked alongside and make the TAP blog a space to lift up these voices as part of a series.
In this first blog we meet Claire Glasman a founder member and co-ordinator of WinVisible (Women with Visible & Invisible Disabilities), a grassroots multi-racial organisation based on collective self-help which provides rights information, peer support, advocacy and campaigning. WinVisible has campaigned for benefit rights since 1984 when they began. They are based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre and work closely with the other groups there.
Above is a photo of Paul at a protest with WinVisible.
How did you meet my Dad?
Through the Crossroads Women’s Centre where WinVisible is based. Colleagues read his letters in the Guardian, including about the income which pregnant women need, and must have contacted him at Zacchaeus 2000. WinVisible works closely with the other groups at the Centre, and together with Single Mothers’ Self-Defence (SMSD) we had been lobbying the Lords against welfare reforms.
A new mum was outraged that she was made to go to compulsory “work-focussed” activities while breastfeeding her baby. Our lobby won “no work-related requirements” if you have a child under one, which stands to this day – a small recognition of mothers’ central contribution to society.
By January 2012, Paul and Kim Sparrow from (SMSD) were co-organising protests at Parliament against the Welfare Reform Bill and its sweeping benefit cuts. WinVisible was part of those demos and we saw each other there often, and also when Paul came to the Women’s Centre, which happened several times over the years. When the total benefit cap was piloted in Haringey, Paul co-organised the 1000 Mothers March for Justice (April 2013), which we were part of.
How has your community been affected by the pandemic?
Disabled women, women of colour, family carers, mums generally, have been hit very hard. We’ve worked hard to help others and fight for our rights this past year. There has been a criminal cull of older people, mostly women, in care homes. More than 30,000 COVID deaths, most residents not taken to hospital; the denial of medical attention and blanket “Do Not Resuscitate” orders.
We supported a woman with muscular dystrophy who relies on breathing support. She was denied ventilator filters, diverted to the COVID effort – to get them, she had to threaten the hospital with legal action. The Coronavirus Act suspends the Council’s duty to provide social care. Around 1.8m older and younger people didn’t get support even before the pandemic. We’ve struggled with food supply and food access as we need help to cook food. Disability benefits are harder to get as DWP staff have been moved to Universal Credit, GPs are not providing medical evidence for claimants, telephone assessments for disability benefits are deemed inconclusive.
If he were still alive today what do you think my Dad would be doing?
Paul had his own priorities, always to do with poverty. He would still be very active in many movements for justice and would be backing our campaigns. He would be supporting the Global Women’s Strike and Green New Deal for Europe campaign for a Care Income Now! which brings together caring for people and for the environment. Of course, #20More4All to keep and extend the £20 benefit increase – six months is not enough. And WinVisible’s campaign with other disability groups in Greenwich, Norfolk, Liverpool and elsewhere to abolish care charges taken from our disability benefits. He would hate that as much as Council Tax on low-income people.
What is the most enduring memory you have of my Dad
There are so many wonderful memories. Seeing Paul in court at Highbury and at the many protests we were on together, with others from the Centre, including the men from Payday.
Above is a photograph from June 2014 where Paul Nicolson was at the Supreme Court Council Tax vigil with Claire Glasman (bottom left) and members of WinVisible.
He was always optimistic despite his fury at the injustice so many people face. He never lost his joie de vivre. He loved the movement and we loved him. I also cherish a phone conversation we had, which was typical of him. In consultation with Paul, we were making placards for our vigil at the Supreme Court. Paul wanted the slogan: “Calamitous Council Tax for benefit claimants.” The woman making the placard queried the grammar, so I rang Paul to check. He replied: “People are always trying to edit me!” That was Paul alright. We had a good laugh.
All of us at the Centre who knew Paul very much miss him. We miss hearing his voice and the distinctive way he talked and his commitment – he was a comrade and a friend. The movement for money to survive is stronger with the voice of religious people who won’t compromise on what is morally right, like Paul.
We are sorry Paul never got to meet Rev Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) in the US, which the Global Women’s Strike is partners with – they continue on from Martin Luther King’s campaign against poverty, racism, war and environmental destruction. But Paul did come to a meeting at the House of Commons women at the Centre had organised about the PPC. Paul loved it and spoke from the floor. It was just his cup of tea, or should we say, his glass of wine?
Is there anything people reading this blog can do to show solidarity with your community right now?
Please support #20More4All #KeepTheLifeline on Twitter, Justice for Errol Graham and other benefit campaigns. End “No Recourse to Public Funds”. Follow Support Not Separation @NotSeparation – the coalition to end the unwarranted and damaging separation of children from their mother or other primary carer: “Take away our poverty not our children.” Support the campaign against care charges and against the government’s plans to merge disability benefit tests into one – at the moment, people can have some benefit to survive on if refused the other benefit, while they appeal. Follow @WinVisibleWomen or join our mailing list for info about our forthcoming workshops on Zoom, subscribe to our blog www.winvisible.org And donations to WinVisible are always appreciated.
Support the campaign for a Care Income which brings together caring for people and for the environment – you can endorse here.