Women's rights under “unprecedented attack”

The Fawcett Society, backed by a coalition of more than 20 charities, unions and academics, is calling for the rolling back tax credit cuts to low paid women and ringfencing of funding for Sure Start centres in a new report. 

The Fawcett Society, backed by a coalition of more than 20 charities, unions and academics, is calling for the rolling back tax credit cuts to low paid women and ringfencing of funding for Sure Start centres in a new report. 

The report, entitled ‘A Life Raft for Women’s Equality’, is published on the same day the Minister for Women and Equalities is expected to give a speech outlining the government’s approach to women and the economy. 

The recommendations include:

– the restoration of support for childcare costs for low-income families to pre-April 2011 levels – this, says the Societ, would help ensure paid employment makes financial sense for the many low income women who’ve found they are better off not working.

– ringfencing of funding for Sure Start children’s centres – it says this would further protect women’s access to employment and shore up the other vital benefits these centres offer thousands of families. 

– stopping local authorities "from treating violence against women services as a soft touch for cuts to ensure that some of the most vulnerable women in the UK have access to the support they need".

Unveiling the report, Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality for women is being dismantled, as cuts to women’s jobs and the benefits and services they rely on turn back time on women’s equality.

“Women up and down the country are experiencing greater hardship; for those families affected the cuts to women’s jobs, services and benefits will represent a personal loss. But we must add to this the cost to wider society as women’s opportunities are scaled back. Fewer women working; a widening gap in pay between women and men; entrenchment of outdated gender roles at work and at home and women being forced into a position where they must increasingly rely on a main breadwinner or the state for financial subsidy – this is the picture that emerges when the many policies of economic austerity are stitched together. 

“There are signs of hope that the government realises its economic strategy isn’t working for women, and we hope today’s speech signals a willingness to change course. Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by or at the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women’s equality – and never has the need been so great.“It represents the combined knowledge and expertise of more than 20 organisations and individuals across the charity, academic, voluntary and union sectors.

“Women’s rights are under unprecedented attack. But the government has the power to help stop the clock turning backwards."

Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said: “We need urgent action to stop women being ground down by the Government’s devastating cuts. Two thirds of public sector workers are women, who are most likely to rely on these vital services.

“At the same time these women’s pensions are under a serious attack. Paying more, working longer, for less, when the average pension of a low paid woman council worker is just £2,800 a year – just enough to keep them off means tested benefits. 

“Women are being hit hard by unemployment, the rising cost of living and cuts to benefits and services to young people.”

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group said: "Child poverty and the incomes and services women are able to access are intrinsically linked. The vast majority of child benefit is received by women, whether as the main carer in a couple, or a single parent. It is hugely unfair that such a large burden of the government's cuts should be falling on the shoulders of women and children, and it would be profoundly wrong if these unfair cuts to child benefit became permanent."




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