£26 billion worth of cuts have hit women in Scotland hardest report finds
Welfare reforms have had “grotesquely disproportionate impacts” on women, a new report has found.
Since 2010, £26 billion worth of cuts have been made to benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions with 85% of these affecting women’s incomes, according to the report published by Engender.
A coalition of charities is now backing the charity’s call for an approach that prioritises the needs of women in order to redress the balance.
Close the Gap, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Scottish Refugee Council and Scottish Women’s Aid have all backed the report, which has been released to coincide with the Scottish Parliament welfare reform committee’s inquiry on women and welfare reform.
Improvements on the ground for women only happen when we start taking action
It calls for a halt on the roll out of Universal Credit in Scotland until after the final decision on what additional powers will come to the Scottish Parliament.
Further devolution of powers over welfare to the Scottish Parliament will offer an opportunity to reduce the damaging impact of welfare reforms on women in Scotland, the report states, but also presents 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.
It says an urgent strategy is needed to redress the “grotesquely disproportionate impacts” welfare reform is having on women in Scotland.
Lebo Mohlakoana, a member of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, which is made up of refugee and asylum seeking women who influence policy, 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.”
Executive director of Engender Emma Ritch said the report highlights the true cost welfare changes are having on women in Scotland.
She added: “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.”