Government must end 'gender blind' approach to policymaking, report recommends

A number of recent policies have disproportionately hit women

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The Government should end its “gender blind” approach to policymaking and explicitly consider how its actions affect women, a coalition of Britain’s women’s organisations have recommended.

Research by the 13 women’s groups including the Women’s Resource Centre, Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid and the Fawcett Society, determined that the current approach was creating “unfair and discriminatory” policies.

The report collates evidence including a calculation that 81 per cent of welfare cuts since 2010 have come from women. Meanwhile, the top 1 per cent earners – of which 85 per cent were men – received £3billion in tax cuts since 2010.

Under the Equality Act 2010 all public authorities have a duty to consider how their policies can affect different groups, including women. In practice, however, this can amount to a box-ticking exercise and policies can still disproportionately harm women.

Recent examples include George Osborne’s proposed cuts to tax credits, which would have hit women twice as hard as men. Women have also been disproportionately affected by the public sector pay freeze, and the recently phased-out “tampon tax”.

The report suggests a gendered approach to policymaking would see the bedroom tax scrapped, an urgent increase in the supply of housing, and benefits like tax credits and child benefit restored and strengthened – among other recommendations.

Vivienne Hayes MBE, the chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, said the way policymaking took place had to change. 

“Although not a surprise to the thousands of women living at the sharp end of unfair and discriminatory policies it is nevertheless shocking that in 2016 we still have far to go in achieving justice, rights and equality,” she said.

“It we want an economically productive, healthy society we must see better investment in dismantling the sex hierarchy that sees women and particularly marginalised women invisible, unheard and at the bottom of the pile. 

“We call decision makers to reverse the current gender blind policy making.” 

The suggestion by the groups come after MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee said the Government had to do more to show it was assessing equalities impacts of budget cuts and spending decisions.

The committee warned the current process was “insubstantial and lacking in details”. The MPs said the Government only ever formally listed policies that positively affected protected groups, rather than negatively. 

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