UK Policy Briefings
Spring Budget 2022: Social security and gender
Date Posted: Wednesday 9th March 2022
“Social security has a vital role in securing economic independence for all women, lessening their vulnerability to domestic and sexual abuse and violence. Recent social security changes have disproportionately disadvantaged women, especially BAME women, disabled women, migrant women and lone parents.”
Women are more likely than men to rely on social security for a greater part of their income, because on average they earn less than men and are more likely to have disabilities and caring commitments. A social security system that provides for these women is vital to recognise their humanity and wider contributions to society beyond paid employment.
Generous and sustainable social security policies are vital as the nation recovers from the economic shocks associated with Covid, and in particular for those on the lowest incomes.
- The number of individuals on Universal Credit doubled to nearly 6 million in March 2021 compared to March 2020 and, as of January 2022, remained at nearly 5.6 million.
- 5 million people were affected by the withdrawal of the Universal Credit uplift in October 2021; some families have lost 21% of their income.
- The scheduled uprating of 3.1% in April 2022 will be a real-terms cut to benefits given forecast inflation rates.
- The poorest fifth in the UK now have £380 a year less on average, and food bank use and lone-parent poverty have increased.
“The scheduled uprating of 3.1% in April 2022 will be a real-terms cut to benefits given forecast inflation rates, and this is on top of the UC cut that affected 5.5 million people in autumn 2021.”
Policy changes since 2010 – including the two-child limit, the benefits cap, the benefits freeze, and the introduction of Universal Credit – have exacerbated gendered impacts that were already present in the social security system. Lone parents, domestic abuse survivors, disabled women and BAME women have been particularly badly affected, and there has been an increase in poverty among women, children and those in work.
In the short term the Women’s Budget Group is calling for: an increase in benefits to keep pace with RPI/CPI; the abolition of the benefits cap and the two-child limit; the conversion of Universal Credit advances into non-repayable grants; increases in ESA, Jobseekers’ Allowance and Statutory Sick Pay; an increase in Child Benefit to £50; an extension in SSP eligibility and an increase in the SSP rate; and an end to the ‘No recourse to public funds’ condition, which excludes many migrant women from support.
In the longer term the Women’s Budget Group is calling for: social security that is not means-tested; that is based on individual entitlement; and that encourages the sharing of care work. This should be done in consultation with users, with the impact on equality assessed at every stage, as part of a holistic review of public spending and taxation.