Cost of Living Crisis: Gaps in support for women on low incomes in Scotland
As part of our blog series on the cost of living crisis, Laura Robertson from The Poverty Alliance talks about their recent report with the Scottish Women's Budget Group on the detrimental impacts on the lives of women living on low-incomes in Scotland caused by the crisis.
“I spoke to my friend who told me she has been starving and only eats at night. I have started doing that though it didn’t go well with me the first day, but I will get used to it.” (Idia, aged 35-44, lone mother and asylum seeker)
The cost of living crisis is having devastating impacts on people living on low incomes in Scotland. Research with 38 women affected by the cost of living crisis in Scotland published in November by the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Women’s Budget Group reveals the devastating impacts on women living in a range of circumstances across Scotland. Our research found that women are facing deepening levels of poverty and hardship as they struggle to afford essentials. This blog examines gaps in support for women living on low incomes, reflecting on both the Autumn Statement and the Scottish Budget.
Women are often described as the “shock absorbers” of poverty; they are more likely to be poor and have more debt than men. Greater responsibility for care of children and adults means that benefits are often a vital part of women’s income. They are also more likely to be in low-paid and insecure work, often missing out on benefit entitlement, including cost-of-living payments, as they earn just above thresholds.
Whilst the announcements that both UK and Scottish benefits and the national minimum wage will increase in line with inflation from April are welcome, these measures do not provide the urgent financial support needed by our communities. There are gaps left by the UK Autumn Statement and the Scottish Budget.
There was no announcement of additional support for unpaid carers in Scotland, most of whom are women, despite the majority of carers in Scotland (63 per cent) being extremely worried about managing monthly costs.
Very little attention has also been given to how the cost of living crisis is impacting asylum seekers. Last month, the High Court found that the Home Secretary was acting unlawfully by failing to ensure the rate of support for asylum seekers is adequate. It was later announced that asylum seekers’ “standard weekly allowance” will increase by 10 per cent to £45. More financial support is needed, however, to ensure that asylum seekers receive an adequate support for living. In particular, in our research, free public transport for asylum seekers was called for.
Women in our research called for more investment in preventative public services, particularly for mental health. Whilst a key priority in the Scottish Budget was the creation of “sustainable public services that support the needs of our people”, funding for mental health will be frozen this upcoming financial year, sparking concern from experts who have warned that Scotland faces a “mental health catastrophe”.
These are only some of the issues not addressed in Government responses to the cost-of-living crisis. It is vital that immediate action is taken to ensure everyone has access to the support they need or the devastating impacts of not supporting those on the lowest incomes, who are struggling the most, will be felt.
“I think some folk will probably not be here this time next year”.
(Ellen, single woman, living in rural area in Scotland)
The research by The Poverty Alliance and Scottish Women's Budget Group was funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. You can read the full report online here.
We know that there are many different aspects to the cost of living crisis, and we’re keen to highlight all of the different ways that it is impacting women in Scotland. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hosting blogs on a range of issues related to the cost of living and we want to hear from you – if you're interested, please drop us an email at email@example.com letting us know what aspect of the cost of living and its impact on women you’d like to write about.Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Engender, and all language used is the author's own. We aim for our blog to reflect a range of feminist viewpoints, and we offer a commissioning pot and editorial support to ensure that women do not have to offer their time or words for free. Find out more here.
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