Women hit hardest by benefits changes

Changes to the benefits system made by the UK coalition government since it took office in 2010 have hit women disproportionately hard, according to a new study published by the Scottish Government. The study provides an overview of the impacts of each element of benefits reform on men and women.

Key points

  • The Welfare Reform Act 2012, along with successive Budgets, Autumn Statements and Spending Reviews, has resulted in significant changes to the benefits system. Many of these changes have had a significant impact on women – largely due to women's caring responsibilities.
  • Women lose out in a direct financial sense because certain benefits – child benefit, child tax credits and the childcare element of working tax credit – are typically paid to women. The income women receive from these benefits has been reduced in real terms, and in some cases even in nominal terms.
  • Women will also lose out because of how the new universal credit is structured as a single household payment. In couple households where this is paid to the man, this will represent a loss of income for women and may result in resources not being shared equally.
  • There is also concern that other universal credit changes could mark the start of a return to a 'male breadwinner' model in dual-headed households. The single earnings disregard under universal credit improves the incentive for one person in a couple household to move into employment: but it may weaken the incentives for many second earners (mainly women) to enter work or continue working.
  • Universal credit is likely to make day-to-day budgeting more challenging for women. It will be paid as a single monthly payment, a sharp contrast to the current system of multiple benefits paid at different times in the month. Women in low-income households tend to be responsible for day-to-day budgeting and any problems with payment are likely fall on them. Additionally, reductions in a household’s income from benefits may affect women’s ability to manage on limited resources.

SourceThe Gender Impact of Welfare Reform, Scottish Government
LinksReport | Scottish Government press release | SNP press release | Guardian report | Inside Housing report

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