Women 'worst-hit by spending cuts'

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The Independent Online

Public spending cuts will have a disproportionate impact on women, widening Britain's gender pay gap and increasing other inequalities between the sexes, according to a report.

The study, carried out by women's groups and experts at the University of Warwick, warned that hard-won gains for equality were in danger of "unravelling" as a result of planned spending cuts, which may even trap more women in violent relationships.

Published jointly by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick and Coventry Women's Voices, the report predicts that cuts to adult social care, legal aid, benefits, and public sector pay freezes will all have a greater impact on women than men.

The eight-chapter report, billed as a snapshot of the situation in Coventry in March, concluded that planned and potential cutbacks will hit women hardest and may have a negative impact on their human rights.

Co-author James Harrison, of the University of Warwick's Centre for Human Rights in Practice, said: "This assessment is a projection of what the spending cuts might mean to women.

"It uses Coventry as a case study but the findings are relevant to the whole of the UK."

Dr Harrison added: "Public authorities, both nationally and locally, have legal obligations under the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act to promote equality and protect human rights.

"They need to take these obligations very seriously when making decisions about budget cuts."

The other author of the report, Mary-Ann Stephenson, the chair of Coventry Women's Voices, also believes that many of the cuts will make life harder for women.

"Taken together, the effect will be devastating, particularly on the most vulnerable," she said.

"Women who have been raped or abused may find it harder to get justice or the support they need.

"Some women and their children, particularly lone parents, may be pushed into poverty."

Predicting that the existing gender pay gap was likely to get worse, Ms Stephenson added: "Women did not cause this situation, but we are paying the price."