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Women's equality: clock is turning back as cuts bite, says Fawcett Society

(102 Posts)
ttosca Fri 18-Nov-11 11:24:51

Life-raft policies must be drawn up to counter worst threat 'in living memory' to women's hard-won rights, says charity

Women's financial security and human rights are under attack on a scale not seen in "living memory" due to the coalition's austerity measures, according to a report released today.

Backed by more than 20 charities, unions and academics, the report by the Fawcett Society shows how the cuts are pushing women out of the workforce, driving down their income and undermining hard-won access to justice and protection from violence.

The report, A Life Raft for Women's Equality, offers key policy recommendations to reverse the impact the cuts will have on women's jobs, benefits and key services as state services are withdrawn.

The report is published on the same day that the home secretary, Theresa May – who is also minister for women and equalities – outlines the government's approach to women and the economy.

May will announce an ambitious plan to recruit and train 5,000 volunteer business mentors to help women who want to start or grow their own businesses.

"Business people tell us that they want to take advice from other business people. So the business mentors will be experienced individuals who can provide tailored advice and support. They will be a huge help to women entrepreneurs," May is to say.

Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by, or at, the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women's equality – and never has the need been so great.

"Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality is being dismantled, as cuts to women's jobs and the benefits and services they rely on, turn back time on women's equality."

The number of women out of work is at a 23-year high, with cutbacks in the public sector hitting women particularly hard: two-thirds of the 130,000 jobs lost in local authorities since the first quarter of 2010 were held by women.

"Women up and down the country are experiencing greater hardship. For those families affected, the cuts to women's jobs, services and benefits will represent a personal loss," said Bird. "But we must add to this the cost to wider society as women's opportunities are scaled back.

"Fewer women working, a widening gap in pay between women and men, entrenchment of outdated gender roles at work and at home, and women being forced into a position where they must increasingly rely on a main breadwinner or the state for financial subsidy – this is the picture that emerges when the many policies of economic austerity are stitched together."

The report calls on the government to restore support for childcare costs for low-income families to the level before April 2011. This, says Bird, would "help ensure paid employment makes financial sense for the many low-income women who've found they are better off not working".

Another recommendation is ring-fencing funds for Sure Start centres. "This would further protect women's access to employment and shore up the other vital benefits these centres offer thousands of families," said Bird.

The society calls on the coalition to stop local authorities from treating violence against women services as a soft touch for cuts. "We need to ensure some of the most vulnerable women in the UK have access to the support they need," said Bird.

Signatories to the report include Eaves Housing for Women, the End Violence Against Women coalition, Unison, Child Poverty Action Group, Daycare Trust, White Ribbon Campaign UK, and Rape Crisis.

"We need urgent action to stop women being ground down by the government's devastating cuts," said Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary. "Women's jobs and pensions are under serious attack. They are being hit hard by unemployment, the rising cost of living and cuts to benefits and services to young people."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, agreed. "Child poverty and the incomes and services women are able to access are intrinsically linked. The vast majority of child benefit is received by women, whether as the main carer in a couple, or as a single parent.

"It is hugely unfair that such a large burden of the government's cuts should be falling on the shoulders of women and children, and it would be profoundly wrong if these unfair cuts to child benefit became permanent."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Fairness is facing up to the reality of the financial situation we are in and not leaving our children to pick up the bill. This government is protecting services for the most vulnerable and focusing resources where they are most needed and most effective.

"We are taking 1.1 million of the lowest-paid workers – most of whom are women – out of income tax altogether, introducing flexible parental leave and extending flexible working, and taking action to reduce the gender pay gap."

• This article was amended on 4 November 2011. It originally stated that extra money was being made available by the government for the business mentoring scheme. This has been corrected.

moondog Fri 18-Nov-11 20:01:50

What complete and utter drivel.

GeekLove Fri 18-Nov-11 21:07:58

Would you care to elaborate moondog?
After all there is the Child Benefit cap, the cuts to Sure Start centres and the cuts to children and Youth services and access to funded childcare places. Not to mention the cuts to public service jobs to which women represent the majority of the workforce. Not to mention the Big Society with the expectation that essential services like rural transport, elderly social care and maintenance of green spaces are to be provided by unpaid volunteers, undermining those currently doing such work in paid employment.

moondog Fri 18-Nov-11 21:34:46

Why are these considered wimmins' issues in the 1st place? hmm
Aren't you being rather sexist in assuming men have no interest or stake in so called cuts to youth and children's srvices.

Sure Start was a complete waste of time and money in any case-and I speak as one who was intimatley involved in it.

GeekLove Fri 18-Nov-11 22:37:23

No but women still tend to be the primary caregivers. There is a reason why most single parents tend to be women after all.
Although recent changes to maternity leave have made it possible in principle for parents to share time off after a child is born, workplace culture still has a long way to catch up particuarly for men wanting to be more proactive as SAHPs in thr early months. My husband experienced this within the past year when he took two weeks off for DS2.

As for Sure Start they where one of the best things to come out of the last government. I and others have found them to be very useful in terms of places to take babies and meet other parents, get involved in the local community and get advice and contact with childcare professionals if needed.
Already they are being cut and I hate to think that the changes that have made in areas are going to be reversed.

smallwhitecat Fri 18-Nov-11 22:41:48

Message withdrawn

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 08:31:32

Exactly SWC.

It's all poor vulnerable ladies us fit only for the sweepings of the factory floor and then throwing a tantrum if the trappings of the state are eased off slightly.

Moreover, anyone who refers to themselves with a straight face as a 'primary caregiver' needs a swift kick up the arse for crimes against the Elglish language.

You have a kid, you get a job. Unsurprisingly, the job stil lneeds to be done, much as many would like an entire career to revolve around their trips to the local Sure Start centre for bany massage classes.

I am staggered at how flexible my own (public sector) job is to the needs of parents. I sometimes feel my many colleagues treat the job to be done as a minor irritant in their busy lives.

smallwhitecat Sat 19-Nov-11 13:55:37

Message withdrawn

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:05:45

I am a public sector worker and there is no flexibility for parents of either gender. In fact such is the lack of flexibility that often teachers at our school have a partner who works part time or not at all. Most of the women in senior positions are childless and the men in similar positions have a wife/ partner at home full time.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:08:37

In fact the only flexibility which admittedly was a great one - leaving at 4pm has now gone.

When the official school day ends we are expected to book meetings, run detentions, revision classes etc.

The only flexibility I have now is that I can leave work at 6pm with piles of work which I can choose to do after my dd has gone to bed rather than stay in school.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:09:21

But of course you have weeks and weeks and weeks of holidays.
A fair trade off against the fact that in term time you need (God forbid!) to be there for pupils.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:14:10

I do have weeks of holidays , that is a very fair point .

I also make no pretence of doug very much work in them.

I just object to the stereotype that in he public sector we have it all out own way and expect our job to fit around our lives.

During term time my family have to fit around my job.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:14:51

I don't see the need for the God Forbid comment.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:18:01

I do.
You're a classic example of one who bristles at the imposition of work on her private life.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:18:53

'During term time my family have to fit around my job.'

So they bloody well should.
My family fit around my job every day of the week-as they should.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:22:49

At the moment I am annoyed at the imposition of my work life on my home life as every day this week I have worked from 7 am until gone midnight .

I have barely spoken to my child, have had to miss a performance she begged me to see as I missed the last three due to work commitments.

I don't think that makes me unreasonable or a workshy bleating whinger who lack commitment to my job.

bemybebe Sat 19-Nov-11 14:23:13

I am afraid we all, public or private, have to fit our lives around our jobs. I rarely left work before 7pm having started at 7am (or even earlier).

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:24:45

That's life TT.
I have missed or had to cancel many things to do with family and friends as a result of my life.
I see it as completely normal.

bemybebe Sat 19-Nov-11 14:26:00

"I rarely left work before 7pm having started at 7am (or even earlier)." And this is in 10 years, not just "this week".

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:27:11

We are different people moondog, I never imagined as a parent that my child would feel that she came second to the children I teach - she does .

I never thought that as a parent I would spend every working evening shut away in an office whilst my family carried on without me.

I never thought I would feel it necessary to plan my own fertility around the rest of my department and exam timetables- but I work I that kind of environment.

If that makes me a shit employee I take the shame.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:28:09

TT, if you assume you have to plan your sex life and conception around your job I suspect you are deeliberately playing the martyr.

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:31:26

I said this week for working from 7 am until gone midnight.

Every day during term time I am at my desk from 7 an until 6 - 6.30pm and then have to do a further couple of hours at home . That is just life and I accept that. Usually I start working again at 9pm and work through until midnight and have no problem with that as is have time with my daughter.

Recently i have had to work straight through. That bristles me.

smallwhitecat Sat 19-Nov-11 14:32:37

Message withdrawn

twinklytroll Sat 19-Nov-11 14:33:22

No it is not about being a martyr. I work in a department full of women of child bearing age, if we all took maternity leave at the same time it would be a disaster, that is common sense.

moondog Sat 19-Nov-11 14:33:39

Amen to that swc grin

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