Women suffering most under Tory austerity measures, MSPs warn


Condemnation of Tory welfare cuts and their overwhelming impact on women

HOLYROOD MSPs have warned that Tory austerity measures, PS12bn more of which are to be announced by Chancellor George Osborne in Wednesday’s budget, have a disproportionate effect upon women.

A 66-page report released on Monday by the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee, titled ‘Women and Social Security’, found that existing inequality has been aggravated by welfare cuts, with women twice as likely to be on benefits than men.

According to the report, 92 per cent of lone parents are women, women make up 95 per cent of lone parents on income support, 59 per cent of unpaid carers in Scotland are women and 74 per cent of carer’s allowance claimants are women.

The report also points to the way in which austerity “not only negatively impacts on them [women] but also on the people that they care for”.

The Holyrood committee called upon the UK and Scottish governments to “demonstrate the gender impact of their policy decisions and take steps to mitigate these”.

As well as cuts to individual benefits such as child support and carer’s allowance, Osborne announced on Monday that the previously announced reduction in the benefits cap from PS26,000 to PS23,000 will only apply to Greater London, with the rest of the UK facing a PS20,000 cap for families.

One suggestion by the Holyrood committee to reduce the impact of welfare cuts was for “a move away from monthly and single household payments under Universal Credit, as a way of protecting women’s financial autonomy”.

Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute has attacked the “inherent cruelty of the UK welfare reform”.

Universal Credit replaced the six previous means-tested tax credits and benefits in October 2013, and has been widely criticised as having a starkly gendered impact, with a recent report by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute attacking the “inherent cruelty of the UK welfare reform”.

Ruth Cain, writing in Open Democracy (click here to read more), said: “At the same time as women and families are being morally indicted for their inability to create ‘stable’ families in the face of austerity, they are being asked to pull themselves out of poverty through low-paid work and zero-hour contracts.”

Responding to the MSPs’ report, a DWP spokesperson said (click here to read more): “Our reforms are fixing the welfare system to ensure it promotes work, helps people lift themselves out of poverty and puts public spending on a more sustainable footing.”

Today’s report also comes as the Scottish children’s commissioner, Tam Baillie, twice attacked the UK government’s welfare cuts over the last week, criticising Iain Duncan Smith’s efforts to redefine child poverty (click here to read more), and the DWP’s subsequent comment that it “makes no apology for its efforts to raise incomes by expanding employment opportunities”.

“When the UK government says ‘no apology’, to me it means no apology for more children being plunged into poverty.” Tam Baillie, children’s commissioner

Mr Baillie responded by saying: “When the UK government says ‘no apology’, to me it means no apology for more children being plunged into poverty, no apology for them dying younger, no apology for their educational attainment being badly affected, and no apology for their poor mental health.”

Fuller details of the UK government’s further PS12bn of austerity will be announced by Osbourne on Wednesday.