CHARITIES are calling on the Scottish Government to use new social security powers to mitigate the devastating impact of cuts on women.

A damning report has been released by organisations fighting for women’s equality in Scotland which shows how the UK Government’s austerity programme has disproportionately affected women.

The report, compiled by Engender, Close the Gap, Scottish Women’s Aid, the Scottish Refugee Council and Carers Scotland, highlights the fact the 86 per cent of cuts from 2010-2020 will have come from women’s incomes.

With new powers being devolved to the Scottish Government, the women’s groups are calling for a commitment to equality and help stem the tide of cuts.

They want measures put in place like comprehensive monitoring of the impact of cuts on women, topping up child benefit payments, and paying Universal Credit entitlements to individuals as the default option.

Offering individual payments, rather than household payments as is the current structure, would guard against reinforcing women’s inequality in society, and help ensure equal access to income and financial autonomy, they say.

Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, said: “Women are bearing the brunt of so-called welfare reform – both being hit hardest by cuts to social security, and having to pick up the slack where public services are being curtailed.

“The Scottish Government has an opportunity to honour their pledge of new powers being used to uphold dignity and respect.

We urge them to use this opportunity to make sure women’s equality is at the heart of Scotland’s social security system”

The organisations also say that where women and children are at risk of abuse, household payments would further compromise their safety and reduce their ability to secure safe housing.

Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid said: “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.

“By deciding not to endorse UK Government policy measures such as the single household payment for Universal Credit the Scottish Government can support women’s financial independence and reduce the ability of perpetrators of domestic abuse to control their partners and their children.”

Fiona Collie, policy and public affairs manager at Carers Scotland said women provide around 70 per cent of unpaid care and represent 74 per cent of Carers’ Allowance claimants.

She added: “Women are twice as likely to give up paid work to provide care. Whilst carers save the Scottish economy more than £10 billion every year, Carers Allowance is set at the lowest rate of any income replacement benefit.

“Welfare reform affecting the person they care for and the impact of austerity on services and support have significantly impacted upon carers and those they care for.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to equalise Carers Allowance with Jobseeker’s Allowance and commitments to reflect the additional costs of caring for severely disabled children.

“However, there is much to be done to improve carers’ lives by ensuring that carers have a level of income that recognises their invaluable contribution and also in supporting carers to stay in employment, providing the right care and social security support for the person they care for and in providing opportunities for education, leisure and a life outside caring.”