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Securing Women's Futures: using Scotland's social security powers to close the gender equality gap

Securing Women's Futures: using Scotland's social security powers to close the gender equality gap

Engender, along with other organisations working for women’s equality in Scotland, have released a damning report detailing the ways in which the UK Government’s austerity programme has disproportionately affected women. In it, we highlight the fact the 86% of the austerity ‘savings’ from 2010-2020 will have come from women’s incomes, further entrenching gender inequality in Scotland.

With certain competencies relating to social security being transferred to the Scottish Government, the organisations are calling for the Government to put commitments to equality into practice, and help stem the tide of cuts. These include measures such as comprehensive monitoring of the impact of cuts on women, ‘topping up’ child benefit payments, and, crucially, paying Universal Credit entitlements to individuals as the default option.

Offering individual payments, rather than household payments as is the current structure, would guard against reinforcing women’s inequality in society, and help ensure equal access to income and financial autonomy. Where women and children are at risk of abuse, household payments would further compromise their safety and reduce their ability to secure safe housing.

The organisations will be in the Scottish Parliament all week with an exhibition highlighting the impact of cuts on women and urging newly elected MSPs to take action.

Emma Ritch, Executive Director of Engender said:

“Women are bearing the brunt of so-called welfare reform – both being hit hardest by cuts to social security, and having to pick up the slack where public services are being curtailed. The Scottish Government has an opportunity to honour their pledge of new powers being used to uphold dignity and respect. We urge them to use this opportunity to make sure women’s equality is at the heart of Scotland’s social security system”

Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid said:

“We see every day the impact of the cuts to social security on the women and children that Women’s Aid supports. The Scottish Government now has a real opportunity to embed women’s equality as a core objective in social security policy. By deciding not to endorse UK Government policy measures such as the single household payment for Universal Credit the Scottish Government can support women’s financial independence and reduce the ability of perpetrators of domestic abuse to control their partners and their children. This report’s recommendations are bold and the government’s response needs to be even bolder we think – it is time to dismantle the system that is so inimical to women and children. In this report we have a blueprint to hand. A new government and a new, bold agenda is a great start.”

Fiona Collie, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Carers Scotland said:

“Women provide around 70% of unpaid care and represent 74% of Carers Allowance claimants. Women are twice as likely to give up paid work to provide care. Whilst carers save the Scottish economy more than £10 billion every year, Carers Allowance is set at the lowest rate of any income replacement benefit. Welfare reform affecting the person they care for and the impact of austerity on services and support have significantly impacted upon carers and those they care for. We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to equalise Carers Allowance with Jobseeker’s Allowance and commitments to reflect the additional costs of caring for severely disabled children. However, whilst these are welcome, there is much to be done to improve carers’ lives by ensuring that carers have a level of income that recognises their invaluable contribution and also in supporting carers to stay in employment, providing the right care and social security support for the person they care for and in providing opportunities for education, leisure and a life outside caring.”

Lindsey Millen, Development Officer at Close the Gap, said:

“Women in Scotland face multiple barriers which constrain their access to the labour market, and to an independent income. New powers over the administration of social security and the delivery of employability programmes provide a real opportunity for the Scottish Government to take decisive action on women’s economic inequality. Close the Gap gives its full support to this report and its recommendations.”

Read the report here, and a summary of recommendations here.

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Related publications

ENGENDER RESPONSE TO SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON SOCIAL SECURITY IN SCOTLAND  ENGENDER RESPONSE, OCTOBER 2016ENGENDER RESPONSE TO SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON SOCIAL SECURITY IN SCOTLAND ENGENDER RESPONSE, OCTOBER 2016 Engender welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on social security in Scotland.

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