UK Policy Briefings
Social Security, Gender and Covid-19
Date Posted: Monday 23rd November 2020
- The coronavirus pandemic has heighted the need for a social security system which provides protection against risk as households on Universal Credit increased by 1.7 million from February – June 2020. Food bank use and lone parent poverty are also increasing.
- Women are more likely than men to rely on social security for a larger part of their income because of their generally lower earnings, longer lives and greater caring responsibilities. Some groups of marginalised women are even more likely to rely on social security.
- The Government has acted quickly to protect jobs but not enough has been done to reform the social security system to protect those out of work and/or on legacy benefits.
- As England enters a second national lockdown, following regional lockdowns and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland negotiate national lockdown measures, it is crucial that restrictions to social security are lifted, and rates of payment are increased.
- Gendered issues in the social security system long pre-date the pandemic; and cuts and policy changes since 2010 have increased children’s, women’s and in-work poverty.
- In particular, the introduction of UC, and other measures including the two-child limit, benefit cap and benefit freeze, and single payment have gendered impacts. Lone parents, survivors of domestic abuse, disabled women, BAME women and migrant women have been particularly disadvantaged. The increases to the work allowance, national living wage and income tax threshold since 2010 do not compensate adequately for these losses.
- In the longer term, insofar as is possible, social security should be non-means-tested, individually allocated and encourage the sharing of care. This should be done in consultation with users, with equality impact assessed at every stage, as part of a holistic review of public spending and taxation.