By Abena Oppong-Asare
The government says that we are all in it together, yet the cuts to welfare reforms will hurt women massively.
The government has introduced the new Universal Credit Reform which will come into effect next week on April 1, 2013. The government’s mantra for reforming the benefits system will help people move back into work, whilst supporting the most vulnerable. They also state that the new system is less complex than the current system. I disagree with this statement. I think that this is the worst time to be trying to reduce the welfare budget. The government is cutting jobs in the public sector which means more women will become unemployed, especially as they make up around two-thirds of the public sector workforce.
Women already receive a pay gap in comparison to men earning an average of 15 per cent less than men and are most likely to work in low paid jobs.
The new Universal credit along with cuts to child benefit, legal aid and housing will affect women disproportionately and I am worried that women will stay in unhappy and violent situations because of these cuts to avoid facing homelessness. I already had one friend tell me that she is unhappy in her relationship and wants to leave her partner, but says she cannot because she and her children will be made homeless.
Furthermore, cuts to Legal Aid in April will mean cases such as social welfare debt, employment, family problems, clinical negligence, divorce and housing problems will no longer be applicable under legal aid meaning no help and justice for millions of women. On March 5, Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, said on BBC’s Today programme that ‘the removal of legal aid for civil cases such as debt, welfare and family disputes would damage the British justice system’.
It seems things are looking very gloomy for women. We have a male dominated cabinet making drastic cuts that will hit women very disproportionately. The progress for equality for women seems to be moving many steps back instead of pushing forward.