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Launching our joint paper on gender and 'welfare reform'

Today Engender is launching a joint position paper on gender and ‘welfare reform’, in collaboration with Close the Gap, Scottish Refugee Council, Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Convention and Zero Tolerance.

It draws together the numerous ways that women are penalised by cuts to the benefits and tax credits system, and describes the gender inequality that accounts for these impacts. It also makes a set of recommendations to Scottish Government as it shapes its ‘mitigation’ response to the UK’s ‘welfare reform’ agenda. ‘Welfare reform’ directly penalises women. Of cuts totalling £14.9 billion since 2010, 74% has been taken from women’s incomes, and women are significantly more dependent on social security than men.

This is not a coincidence, but due to women’s pre-existing inequality. We see a clear need to restate the parameters of our own agenda within the context of ‘welfare reform’, and to highlight the reality that these policy changes exacerbate, rather than create inequality for women in Scotland. The parameters of the debate on social security and poverty have been pushed so far from what we need to see under the current UK Government, that there is a danger this is lost entirely in our attempts to respond.

Our organisations work with many different groups of women that rely on social security, including lone mothers, rural women, women affected by violence, women struggling to access the labour market, and refugee women with newly granted status. It is this documenting of daily life and of growing anger, fear and stress that is the basis of this call to action. The paper looks at:

  • Women and work, in relation to Universal Credit, employability and job-seeking, and caring responsibilities
  • Domestic abuse, in relation to the household payment and the bedroom tax
  • Multiple discrimination, with particular reference to disabled women, older women, BME women and refugee women
  • Scottish Government ‘welfare reform’ mitigation measures.

The gender impact has been recognised in broad terms by the Scottish Government in its analysis paper of August 2013. Yet policy responses to date remain ungendered. Without targeted initiatives, these mitigation efforts will not deliver for the many women currently at risk of deeper and sustained poverty.

We are holding a discussion event at Scottish Parliament tomorrow night, to consider what the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and third sector can and should be doing to address this. Please contact Engender on info@engender.org.uk if you would like to join us.

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