The Scottish Government has published a report on the gendered impact of welfare reform, which confirms that women have been disproportionately affected by the measures brought in by the Coalition Government since 2010.
This is because many benefits are paid directly to women as the primary carers of children: currently Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits and the Childcare element of working tax credit are paid to the main carer and women have been hit hard by these particular cuts.
The introduction of Universal Credit is of concern as all household benefits will be paid to one individual, meaning that women could lose independent income if they stay at home or work par- time while their partner becomes the main “breadwinner”. Concern is expressed over concentrating all of the financial resources and power in the hands of one person, which may result in unequal sharing. Worryingly, less household income could be spent on children as women are more likely to spend money on children’s needs than men.
The report also expresses concern about the impact that Universal Credit will have on women’s ability to budget, given that a single payment will now be paid monthly as opposed to several payments at different times of the month.
The report outlines the effect on women of the following welfare reform measures:
- Changes to benefit uprating
- Household benefit cap
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support for Lone Parents
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Social Fund Localisation
- Changes to the system of child support
- Child Benefit
- Childcare element of Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credits
- Abolition of the health in Pregnancy Grant
- Restriction of Sure Start Maternity Grants
- Abolition of Child Trust Fund
Many, though not all, of these will affect women disproportionately. Changes to eligibility criteria for Disability Living Allowance, for example, will affect men and women equally and changes to Employment and Support Allowance are likely to affect men more because they make up the majority of the caseload for this benefit.
The report doesn’t contain figures for the impact of the “bedroom tax” on women, however, they do point out that women form a significant proportion of the Housing Benefit caseload and that any changes to HB will impact particularly on lone parents, the majority of whom are women. 249,261 women in Scotland are reliant on this benefit.
The authors find that overall, welfare cuts have had a “significantly gendered impact”, mostly negative, while additional cuts to public spending have also disproportionately affected women.