SCOTTISH women’s groups and equalities campaigners are calling on all women in Scotland to fill out the Scottish Government’s consultation on social security.
Research carried out by a coalition of organisations including Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, Carers Scotland, Close the Gap and the Scottish Refugee Council has highlighted that, of the savings made by the UK Government through cuts to the benefits and tax credit systems between 2010 and 2020, 86 per cent will have come from women’s incomes.
The Scottish Government is seeking views from people across Scotland about how ministers should use their new powers over social security which are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
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These new powers include control over entitlements such as Carer’s Allowance and the Sure Start Maternity Grant, along with some powers over how Universal Credit is delivered and it was the flexibility over this system that is of particular concern to those fighting for women’s equality.
The current UK approach is to offer Universal Credit payments to one member of the household rather than to individuals. Women’s organisations claim that if this system is replicated in Scotland, it will undermine women’s financial autonomy, and place them at risk of abuse.
Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, said: “Women are twice as dependent on social security as men, and it’s therefore vital that Scotland’s new social security system has women’s equality at its heart. We’re encouraged by the Scottish Government’s pledge to ensure Scotland has a social security system based on dignity and respect, but there must be a recognition that household payments of Universal Credit undermines this pledge.
“It is fantastic that the Scottish Government are consulting on the future of social security in Scotland, giving all women in Scotland the opportunity to have their say."
Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, urged women to make sure they have their say before the October 28 deadline.
She added: “We see every day the impact of the cuts to social security on the women and children that Women’s Aid supports. The Scottish Government now has a real opportunity to embed women’s equality as a core objective in social security policy.
“The single household payment of Universal Credit is a backwards step for women and replicates the very patriarchal values and structures that are the cause and consequence of domestic abuse.
“Research suggests that 89 per cent of all women who are abused by a partner experience financial abuse as part of domestic abuse. To cut off what is, for many women, their only independent income is clearly short-sighted, unhelpful, and dangerous.
“The single household payment will increase women’s financial dependence and place them at increased risk.
“We would encourage all women in Scotland to take the opportunity to fill out the Scottish Government consultation, show support for individual payments of Universal Credit, and have their say on the future of social security.”
To have your say and access support to fill out the consultation, go to www.engender.org.uk/gendermattersinsocialsecurity.