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Cost-of-living crisis increasing hardship for women living on low incomes in Scotland

This news post is over 1 year old

Research has found that those in low-paid work are missing out on support.

A new report has found shocking evidence that women in Scotland are suffering increasing hardship, destitution, and food insecurity due to lack of support during the cost-of-living crisis.

Research conducted as part of a partnership between the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Women's Budget Group (SWBG) found that women are experiencing increasing financial hardship and are at risk of falling into further debt as a consequence of the cost-of-living crisis. 

Women in low-paid work reported often missing out on social security support or cost-of-living payments, or free school meals, because they earn just above income thresholds.

The research was funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and included women from diverse backgrounds across Scotland. 

Women told researchers they are worried whether they will be able to afford their energy bills in winter and parents and carers are struggling to afford food and essential items like baby wipes, incontinence pads, and toilet roll.

Fiona McHardy, research and information manager at the Poverty Alliance, said: "This research shows that women are at risk of being pushed into destitution. The financial support that has been made available so far by both UK and Scottish Governments to help with the cost-of-living crisis is clearly not sufficient for many of the women in our study.

“It is vital that the UK Government increases the value of social security benefits in line with inflation. Any cut to UK benefits will led to unacceptable hardship for more women.

“In Scotland, we must find ways to expand eligibility for people who are in employment, are in need, but miss out on support. Too many women in Scotland are in urgent need of support - Scottish Ministers must leave no stone unturned in finding resources to support them during this crisis.”

The report contains 15 recommendations on how to better support women through this crisis and beyond.

Key priorities include ensuring adequate incomes for all through a “caring social security system”, investing in preventative public services and in support and advice services to help people manage debt, and improving community amenities and services, ensuring that support provided is free from stigma.

The report also calls for the UK government to uplift social security in line with inflation and for the Scottish government to expand eligibility to sources of emergency support for women experiencing in-work hardship.

SWBG co-ordinator Sara Cowan said: “The costs crisis is affecting the vast majority of us, but this powerful research highlights again the unjust way that poverty especially affects women in our society.

“Women are more likely to be poor, have lower levels of savings and wealth, and are less able to find suitable work or increase their hours if they're in work often due to caring responsibilities that fall disproportionately on women.

"The women in this research talked about the impossible decisions they had to make to prioritise feeding their children, and whether or not to turn the heating on. Or not being able to buy things like baby wipes, incontinence pads, or toilet roll.

"The Scottish and UK Governments can help by increasing and extending the emergency support available to people, and working to put justice and compassion at the heart of social security and our public services."

Vivienne Jackson, programme manager at abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, added: "This important research shines a light on the real experiences of women in Scotland. It’s not right that people are struggling to afford to feed their families, or having to live in freezing cold houses because they can’t afford to put their heating on.

"We hope this research will add to the growing body of evidence that households need much more help from government during this crisis, and that we need to make financial fairness an urgent government priority."