WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST.
Midway through the condems alliance and Cameron and Clegg took the opportunity to demonstrate a united front. Thirty two months in we find ourselves in the eye of the storm where some of the institutions we cherish most have been battered in a storm of ideology and hatred not seen since Thatcher pushed through legislation some of her children might view as not severe enough. As usual it is those who need greater support who find themselves as targets. With this regime it includes people with disabilities, the long term sick, and women and children. However as was demonstrated with the freeze of 1%on benefits for all of working age until 2015, despite their alleged differences, they have common ground when it comes to attacking the poor.
Women and children are especially vulnerable with cuts to front-line services they depend on as well as benefit cuts. Women rely on services from childcare to supporting elderly relatives. My mother in law who is 82 has been a carer all her life first to her son, her parents and then her husband. Age concern estimate she is not alone and people in failing health and advancing in years provide free high quality care. She now looks after her brother and relies on his day centre placement to get a break. With cuts to services his placemen has been cut from 4 full days to one and a half days a week. Like many she is almost at breaking point. This is likely to be the experience of many women of all ages who rely on health and local authority services. Even services that might be considered to be non essential can be a lifeline. As more and more services are cut and privatised they are out of the reach of many.
Lets remember too that as well as using services women provide services in public services. The better working conditions, flexibility and wages help some women manage to balance their work and home life. The TUC estimate that women make up 40% of the public sector workforce and in some areas this increases to 50%. Women are more likely to be in lower paid work or work part time in comparison to their male counterparts. They are more likely to depend on working tax credits. It is estimated that single parent women might lose up to 18.5 % of their net income that is an average loss of -£3,321 per annum.
Benefit reform will affect all of people in receipt of working age benefits in and out of work. Already women have been affected by the freezing and withdrawal of the health in pregnancy benefits and tax credits relating to babies and toddlers. The government have put women and children first by making them one of their first targets. With the launch of the Universal Credit it will be mostly left to women to worry about the stress of balancing a new type of household budget and in some cases as only one person will be in receipt of Universal Credit, there may be problems with getting access to money needed for household bills.
The condems announced the means testing of child benefit as a way in our “harsh financial climate” to give help only where it was needed. Let’s not believe the hype, it is nothing more than an attack on universal benefits and another tactic to divide the rich and the poor. Its original purpose at the beginning of the Welfare State was to ensure a small amount of money was paid directly to the mother so she was wholly dependent on her partner. These moves return us to darker times where women may have to be more dependent on partners some of whom might be abusive.
The beginning of 2013 and we are in the eye of the maelstrom. The year ahead will be difficult with the introduction of the Bedroom Tax and Universal Credit and women will disproportionately be affected. I take solace though from many of my friends most of whom are apolitical and carers. On January 23rd I will be standing with them in George Square as we protest about the closure of day centres in Glasgow.I hope to see some of you there too. I get a feeling that people are becoming more angry and ready to make a stance. I am more hopeful that 2013 will be the year the tide turns and more and ore people make a stand. For all our sakes I hope so.