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In respective budgets since 2010, between 70% and 85% of cuts to public spending on benefits, taxation, pay and pensions have come from women’s incomes.
Engender welcomes this parliamentary debate and the Welfare Reform Committee’s report on women’s social security. In partnership with other women’s organisations, we have worked to highlight discrimination against women within the austerity agenda. ‘Welfare reforms’ and wider austerity measures are undermining progress towards gender equality, and have a major impact on women’s lives.
Since the Welfare Reform Committee held its inquiry into women and welfare, the context for women has worsened. The House of Commons Library estimate that 70% of the £34 billion worth of cuts announced in the UK Government’s ‘summer budget’ will fall on women. Further extensive cuts will have been announced in the Spending Review and Autumn Statement by the time this debate takes place. As a result of structural gender inequality, a similar gender profile can be expected. Certain groups of women, including lone mothers, refugees, disabled women, unpaid carers and women experiencing domestic abuse face multiple and particularly extreme impacts as a result.
The role of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to protect social security for women is therefore more vital than ever. Strategic action is manifestly needed, or else existing commitments and political ambition on gender equality will not be achieved. Along with Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Refugee Council and Close the Gap, we are calling for a high-level summit on women’s social security, to develop such an approach.
This briefing sets out the current context for women and our proposals regarding forthcoming and existing powers over social security and related policy areas.
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