Background briefing: Social Security

Date Posted: Tuesday 7th March 2017

Ahead of the 2017 Spring Budget, the UK Women’s Budget Group has written a briefing on the impact of cuts to social security benefits on women since 2010.

BudgetSocial Security


Key points:

  • Cuts to social security benefits affect women more than men because of their generally lower income, longer lives and greater caring responsibilities.
  • With 50% of the successive cuts since 2010 due to lower indexation and freezes in amounts of benefits and tax credits, the total cumulative cut by 2020-21 is estimated to be about £37bn per year (as costed by the OBR) and £56bn per year (when measured against RPI, as was done before June 2010).

  • Drastic cuts to elements of tax credits and the introduction of Universal Credit, with a higher taper (on net income rather than gross as with tax credits) will penalise many women as primary carers and secondary earners.
  • Cuts to child-related payments for third and subsequent children will disproportionately hit BAME women, who tend to have larger families.

  • Stricter eligibility conditions for lone parents and disabled people to claim benefits have made many disadvantaged people, and women in particular, more vulnerable, especially in the context of a precarious labour market, and have not been accompanied by equivalent resources for support to find suitable employment and services such as child care and social care.

  • Cuts to housing benefits are also drastic given the context of rising private rents and the difficulties facing families in finding suitable accommodation near schools and the workplace, affecting lone parents in London in particular. This is reinforced by the introduction of a weekly benefit cap applied to many families in 2011, and its strengthening in 2015 when the weekly maximum was reduced.
  • WBG argues that instead of reducing the scope and generosity of the social security system, investing in public services and the social infrastructure of education, health and care will not only address many social needs but also increase quality employment and fiscal revenue.

Download the full briefing here.