Research shows how cuts will increase inequality between men and women
Cuts in public spending will increase inequality between women and men and may seriously affect the human rights of some of the most vulnerable women, according to a new report by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices.
The report, Unravelling Equality: A Human Rights and Equality Impact Assessment on the spending cuts on women in Coventry, examines the impact of cuts on women in Coventry, but the effects described will be seen across the UK.
- Tax and benefit changes will cost women in Coventry nearly £30 million. The cost to men will be just under £12 million. This will widen income inequality and increase the number of women living in poverty.
- There are over 10,000 families headed by a lone parent in Coventry. 92% of lone parents are women.Lone parents will be particularlyhard hit by cuts to childcare tax credit (which will cost a family in Coventry with one child in full-time childcare £18.70 a week), cuts to housing benefit (which will cost families between £8 and £15 a week), closures to childcare services, and new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission charges. These will reduce the disposable income of lone parents and make it harder for them to find employment.
- More than 30,000 women in Coventry are likely to be raped or abused at some point in their life, and more than 38,000 women are likely to experience domestic violence. Funding for vital services such as Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre and Coventry Haven is under threat, which may leave vulnerable women without the support they need. Cuts to police budgets have seen the number of specialist domestic violence officers reduced from eight to two. Housing benefit cuts will make it harder for women to move away from their attacker, and welfare reform may increase women’s financial dependence on abusive partners. Women leaving violent relationship often need legal advice to deal with debt, welfare and housing issues – cuts to legal aid may leave these women without access to proper legal help.
- The pay gap in Coventry is already 10 points higher than the national average. Public sector job cuts and pay freezes have hit more women than men because women are the majority of public sector workers in Coventry. 78% of Coventry City Council staff are women.
It is the combined impact of the cuts that will be particularly damaging. Many women won’t just be affected by one cut, they will face a whole series of cuts – to welfare benefits, housing benefits and local services. And cuts to legal aid will mean that organisations like Coventry Law Centre will not be able to provide the support for women to challenge what is happening to them.
Dr James Harrison of the University of Warwick’s Centre for Human Rights in Practice said:
‘This assessment shows how a range of different cuts will all disproportionately impact on women. Public authorities both nationally and here in Coventry have legal obligations under the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act to promote equality and protect human rights. They need to take these obligations very seriously when making decisions about budget cuts.’
Mary-Ann Stephenson is Chair of Coventry Women's Voices.
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