Benefits Changes 'Hit Women Harder'

6 July 2015, 08:10 | Updated: 6 July 2015, 08:11

Changes to the benefits system are having a "devastating impact'' on women, according to a report.

Holyrood's Welfare Reform Committee found women are "disproportionately impacted'' by changes across a range of issues and benefits.

Its report sets out recommendations to the Scottish Government and Department of Work and Pensions which it said is aimed at "mitigating the impact of welfare reform on women''.

They include a call for an integrated approach to job seeking support across health, housing and social care, to better meet the needs of women.

Committee convener Michael McMahon MSP, said: "The evidence we have set out confirms the devastating impact on women of the UK Government's reforms to the social security system.

"Of particular concern is the cumulative impact on women hit by multiple benefits cuts, from child support to carer's allowance.

"The UK Government urgently needs to look at how women are being affected by these changes and we are also calling on the Scottish Government to look at the gender impact of their own policy decisions.''

Deputy convener Clare Adamson MSP, said: "Our report shows inequalities faced by women in Scotland have been exacerbated by the welfare reform agenda. With the Scotland Bill still making its way through Westminster and the Chancellor set to announce even deeper cuts to welfare spending, the committee is urging the Scottish Government to make use of expected new powers over welfare to help mitigate more of the negative impact of welfare reform on women.

"The committee would, for instance, support a move away from monthly and single household payments under Universal Credit, as a way of protecting women's financial autonomy.''

Commenting on the report, Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said: "It is alarming to see that women have been disproportionately affected by the UK Government's benefits cuts and are twice as dependent on social security than men. I am deeply concerned that the UK Government's £12 billion cuts will only widen this gap.

"With our new powers we will create a fairer and simpler social security system that aims to tackle gender and other inequalities. However we need to know how the UK Government's cost cutting will affect benefits that are to be devolved.''

She added: "We welcome the committee's recommendations over Universal Credit and sanctions, and we will continue to do all we can to break down the barriers that prevent women from entering into work.''

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Our reforms are fixing the welfare system to ensure it promotes work, helps people lift themselves out of poverty and puts public spending on a more sustainable footing.

"There is a record number of women in work in Scotland, and by sticking to our long term economic plan we can ensure more people have the peace of mind and security that comes with a regular pay cheque.''