The Coalition Government’s spending review will hit women twice as hard as men according to new research from the House of Commons. In addition, poorer women in Lambeth will be hit harder than women on higher incomes because of the way the Tories and Lib Dems are targeting tax rises, welfare cuts and job losses.
Women face a double whammy from the Tory-Lib Dem cuts as they are squeezed with increased responsibility to care for young children and older parents at the same time. Government cuts will mean less affordable childcare, breakfast clubs and play facilities, and will see services like home helps and care services taken away from older people. The burden of picking up the responsibility will fall disproportionately on women. At the same time, since women live longer than men, cuts in care for older people will also fall more heavily on women than on men.
Women will also face the brunt of job losses as the Tories and Lib Dems slash spending on public services. Over seven out of ten local government employees are women, meaning that more women than men will lose their jobs because of Government funding cuts. Women are also more likely to be working in the low-paid jobs that will be squeezed such as cleaning, catering, caring, office administration and customer services.
It’s a deplorable fact that as unemployment and economic stress rises so does domestic violence against women. With more women at risk from this pernicious crime that happens behind closed doors, services that support women at risk face cuts or closure. The cuts in Government funding announced earlier this year included cuts to the grant that pays for a large chunk of Lambeth’s domestic violence support. We are doing all we can to try and find the money elsewhere.
Cuts in house building and housing benefits will disproportionately affect women. Already the proposed cap in benefits has led to private landlords pulling out and all the people placed in bed and breakfast accommodation in Lambeth as a result have been women. The welfare changes that will see housing benefit taken away from young people living alone create a perverse incentive for young women to get pregnant to get housed – threatening a rise in teenage pregnancy which is already at very high levels in Lambeth.
Higher levels of overcrowding because of Government cuts in house-building will lead to more family breakdown, and rising unemployment will worsen that situation further. The burden of childcare when families break down falls more on women than on men. The Tory-Lib Dem hike in VAT will also hit women hardest as they are more often responsible for managing the household budget to put food on the table.
This all seems to add up to a war on women. But perhaps this is no surprise since 86% of Government cabinet ministers are male. By contrast, Lambeth Council’s much smaller cabinet is 60% female, and it’s worth remembering that when the Lib Dems were running our council they never appointed a single Lib Dem woman to sit on the cabinet in all four years they were in charge.
Women across Lambeth are being unfairly targeted by the Lib Dems and Tories in a way that was impossible to predict before the election. It really does seem the Coalition Government is making women bear the burden of their decision to slash public spending harder and faster than is necessary.