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The disproportionate effects of service cuts on older women

Front page of report showing four womenSome commentators say that older people have ‘got off lightly’ with public sector spending cuts.

A new report, Getting off lightly or feeling the pinch? A human rights and equality impact assessment of the spending cuts on older women in Coventry, by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices, show that this is a myth, at least when it comes to older women.

Although some benefits for older people, such as free bus passes, have been protected, cuts to services, particularly health, social care and transport are having a disproportionate impact on older women:

University Hospital in Walsgrave and Rugby St Cross face having to make £28 million of cuts and George Eliot Hospital has had to save £10 million. Cuts in health spending have resulted in increased cancellation of hospital appointments, longer waits for appointments, early discharge from hospital and difficulty getting to see a GP. This increases the risk of women suffering longer waits for treatment, or not getting the treatment they need

• Spending on social care for adults in Coventry fell by 2.7% between 2010 and 2011. A further £1.5million of savings are expected to be found by 2013. Cuts in social care spending have resulted in increased charges for care, staff cuts, a reduction in training and a reduction in support for carers. This risks the mental and physical health of older women needing social care and women carers

Centro, which is responsible for public transport in Coventry, had its budget cut by 10% in 2011/12 and 8.4% in 2012/13. Cuts to transport spending have resulted in cuts to bus services, making it harder to get to hospital, go shopping or visit friends and family. This risks people not accessing vital health services or suffering mental health problems because of loneliness and isolation.

At the same time, one in five women pensioners are currently living in poverty and many more are struggling to cope with the cost of food and fuel which have risen far faster than pensions.

Even small cuts to income, or increases in charges can push these women into poverty.

Women coming up to retirement age are losing out from cuts to housing benefit, cuts to council tax credit, cuts to disability benefits and cuts to tax credits for the over 50s.

Unemployment among women over 50 in Coventry has increased by 74% since 2008. The move to Universal Credit could cost women in mixed age couples where one is over and one is under retirement age over £100 a week.

Front line staff at Age UK Coventry are reporting an increase in the numbers of older women asking for a referral to Coventry food bank.

The report concludes that taken together, the cuts to public services, and cuts to welfare benefits, pose a serious risk to the mental and physical health of the poorest and most vulnerable older women.

Contact  us
As with our previous report Unravelling Equality: A human rights and equality impact assessment of the spending cuts on women in Coventry, we would be happy to help groups in other parts of the country who want to carry out similar research in their own area. Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

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