2018 WBG Briefing: Social Security and Women

Date Posted: Friday 19th October 2018

October 2018

BudgetSocial Security

Ahead of the 2018 Autumn Budget, we’ve put together a briefing on recent changes to social security benefits and their impact on women.

View and download the full briefing here.

This briefing was updated following the 2018 Autumn Budget to reflect the changes announced by the Chancellor.

View and download the updated briefing here (November 2018).

Key points
  • Cuts to social security benefits affect women more than men because of their generally lower income, longer lives and greater caring responsibilities.
  • 50% of the successive cuts since 2010 in the real value of social security benefits are due to lower indexation and freezes in benefits and tax credits. The total cumulative cut by 2021-22 is estimated to be worth £39bn per year (as costed by the OBR, using CPI) and £56bn per year (when measured against RPI, as was done before June 2010).
  • Drastic cuts to certain tax credit elements and the introduction of Universal Credit (UC), with a higher taper and reduced work allowances and earnings disregard, will penalise many women as primary carers and secondary earners. The payment of UC into a single bank account on a monthly basis makes budgeting more difficult and increases the risk of financial abuse for women in controlling relationships.
  • Cuts to child-related payments for third and subsequent children are unfair to children and will disproportionately hit the incomes of 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. These cuts have not been accompanied by equivalent resources for support to find suitable employment and services such as childcare.
  • Cuts to housing benefits in the context of rising private rents have been severe and have led to difficulties for 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 in 2011, and its further reduction in 2015.
  • WBG argues that the scope and generosity of the social security system should be reinstated and based on principles of human rights, alongside adequate investment in the social infrastructure of education, health and care public services. Failing to do so risks making short-term cost-savings, but storing up long-term problems.

Written by Jerome De Henau, senior lecturer at the Open University