The Government’s welfare reform programme is having a disproportionately damaging impact on women, a group of parliamentarians have said.
A report by the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee found that people who had been subject to domestic abuse had been particularly put at risk by the changes introduced by Iain Duncan Smith.
“The Committee believes that the cumulative impact of the reforms has had a damaging and disproportionate impact on women,” the report reads.
“The evidence in particular has highlighted impacts for certain groups such as disabled women, lone parents, carers, refugee women and those experiencing domestic abuse.”
MSPs outlined a number of ways in which the DWP’s policies were making life difficult for women.
They say problems with the new Universal Credit system include the likely payment of housing benefit to a single earner, who is more of often than not a man.
“This would lead to an increased need for women to bargain and negotiate within the household, decreasing women‘s financial autonomy and independence,” the report warns.
The committee also says the Government’s benefit cap should be suspended for women feeling domestic violence to give them the best hope of escape.
The MSPs agreed with the UK Parliament work and pensions select committee’s call for a full-scale review of the sanctions process.
Vivienne Hayes, chief executive of the Women's Resource Centre, told the Independent that the report was valuable evidence of the impact of policy on women’s lives.
“We warmly welcome this report and the recommendations within it which concur with our own requests that the UK government assess its policy impact of the further entrenchment of women's inequality and take practical actions to reverse these,” she said.
“Austerity decisions are choices and we expect those choices to address inequality not compound it.”
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
The Women's Resource Centre is leading the Fair Deal for Women Campaign, which campaigns for government policies that promote gender equality.
"Punishing women for being carers, for being disabled, for being refugees, or being migrants is senseless - and also plunges more children into poverty," said Florence Burton of Fair Deal for Women.
"We hope this report can help to change the current debate and give decision makers a reality check on the situation".
The Fawcett Society, which contributed to the report, also welcomed the MSPs' findings.
“We gave evidence to the committee and it is good to known that we have been listened to," said Belinda Phipps, the organisation's chair.
"We welcome the recommendations and the recognition that women are unfairly treated under the welfare system as it is now. We would like to thank the committee for its work and we hope that these recommendations will be looked at in England and Wales.”
George Osborne is set to outline more of the Government's planned £12bn welfare cuts in his upcoming Budget this week.
The new wave of cuts will come after an announcement by Mr Duncan Smith that the Government’s legally binding child poverty target will be scrapped and replaced with non-binding measures of educational attainment and worklessness.
Yesterday a group of 70 prominent Catholics called on the work and pensions secretary to reverse his welfare policies, arguing that they were having unintended negative effects across the population.
The Government says its welfare reforms are making the social security system more fair and that it continues to provide a safety net.Reuse content