Women at the sharp end of welfare ‘reform’

As more and more voices are sounding concerns about the austerity agenda that is currently driving many social policies, Zero Tolerance is particularly alarmed about the effect those policies will have on women. Welfare ‘reform’ as it is happening currently in the UK is essentially the imposition of significant cuts in social security: £26 billion worth of cuts have been made to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions since 2010

85% of this has been taken from women’s incomes.

We know that violence against women is a cause and consequence of gender inequality and cuts across all areas of life. Prevention of violence against women is not an area of work that can be considered only as one policy area; to have any impact equality and violence prevention strategies must link up with all areas of government policy.

For example,‘reforms’ such as Universal Credit impact particularly negatively on women experiencing violence and can create a significant financial barrier for women who need to leave an abusive partner. Earlier this year we joined a range of Scottish organisations in raising concerns to Iain Duncan Smith MP about the effect that this policy could have on vulnerable people. Under Universal Credit, households will receive a single payment, making women more vulnerable to financial control and domestic abuse.

We welcome the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee’s Women and Welfare Inquiry consultation inquiry into the impact of welfare reform on women. We are extremely concerned about the ways that welfare reform is undermining progress towards gender equality. Therefore, we fully support the recommendations of the Engender Scotland’s partnership ‘Women and Welfare: A Widening Gap’ report and their response to the Women and Welfare Inquiry consultation.

You can read our letter of support here, where we call on the Scottish Government to recognise that women are bearing the brunt of welfare reform, directly due to existing inequalities, and to put a gendered analysis at the centre of welfare reform and all related policies.
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