UK Policy Briefings
Spring Budget 2021: Social security, gender and Covid-19
Date Posted: Monday 1st March 2021
- 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 coronavirus pandemic has heightened the need for a social security system which provides protection against risk. The number of individuals on Universal Credit doubled to 6 million in January 2021 compared to March 2020. Food bank use and lone-parent poverty are also increasing.
- 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, with only a temporary reprieve to sanctioning (to July 2020), uplift for those on UC/WTC (£20 per week to April 2021) and pegging of LHA to 30th percentile of rents (to April 2021).
- As the crisis continues, it is crucial that restrictions to social security are lifted, and rates of payment are permanently increased. Removal of the temporary £20/week uplift for those on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits threatens to drag hundreds of thousands into poverty.
- 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 have gendered impacts. Lone parents, survivors of domestic abuse, disabled and BAME women have been particularly disadvantaged.
- 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 the impact on equality assessed at every stage, as part of a holistic review of public spending and taxation.