Report highlights ‘grotesquely disproportionate’ impact of welfare reform on women

engenderA new report has called on the Scottish Government to implement a gendered response to welfare reform mitigation after it found the cuts have had a “grotesquely disproportionate impact” on women.

A study by equal opportunities organisation Engender revealed that £26 billion worth of cuts have been made to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions since 2010 with 85 per cent of these affecting women’s incomes.

The examination of the impact of welfare reform on women in Scotland was launched together with Close the Gap, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Scottish Refugee Council and Scottish Women’s Aid to coincide with the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee’s Inquiry on Women and Welfare Reform.

Containing case studies and analysis, A Widening Gap: Women and Welfare Reform focuses on issues such as the move to Universal Credit, economic inequality, unpaid care work, and support for women facing domestic abuse.

The further devolution of some powers over welfare to the Scottish Parliament offers an opportunity to reduce the damaging impact of welfare reforms on women in Scotland, the report adds, but also presents very real concerns over the complex division of different areas of social security between the UK and Scottish Governments. The report calls for a gender and human rights analysis throughout the process of further devolution, and for a halt on the roll out of Universal Credit in Scotland until negotiations are complete.

Lebo Mohlakoana, a member of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, who was speaking at an event on women and welfare reform at the Scottish Parliament hosted by MSPs Clare Adamson and Michael McMahon, said: “Decision makers need to stop talking and start acting to halt the negative impact of welfare reform on women. The policies on paper are not helping. Improvements on the ground for women only happen when we start taking action. One of the most important things we can do for refugee women is to address stigma, discrimination and stereotyping in employment through more tailored employment support programmes and engagement with employers. The whole welfare system needs to better reflect and respond to different women’s needs, not treating us like one size fits all.”

Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, added: “We have long been aware of the devastating impact that welfare reform is having, and this report highlights the true cost to women in Scotland. The Scottish Government has done positive work to mitigate the worst effects but a gendered approach is needed to ensure women, particularly those facing multiple oppressions, do not continue to bear the brunt of welfare reform.”

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