Cuts to Universal Credit could force women onto a financial cliff edge
As news comes that the Government plan to axe the uplift to Universal Credit on October 6, research suggests that women, particularly those in the Liverpool City Region, will be amongst the hardest hit.
The announcement, which quickly proceeds news of national insurance increases and soaring food and energy bills, only serves as a further financial blow for many UK households and could force millions of mothers into making crippling decisions between keeping warm and putting food on the table this winter.
The number of people accessing Universal Credit nationally has almost doubled during the pandemic, from 3 million people to 5.9 million and the £20 weekly Universal Credit uplift has provided a lifeline for millions during the toughest stages of the pandemic -800,000 people, including 290,000 children – have been protected from poverty this year alone.
And it is unarguable that the pandemic has dealt a significant setback in terms of women’s equality, where women have been ten times more likely than men to have moved out of employment, despite only making up around 47.3% of the UK workforce.
This had meant that during the pandemic women accessing Universal Credit outnumbered men by eight to one.
At the height of the pandemic, the amount of women accessing Universal Credit increased eight times the rate of men.
Startlingly, while 1,200 fewer unemployed men have accessed Universal Credit since last summer across the Liverpool City Region, the number of women accessing the same support has grown by 4000. This roughly equates to 300 more unemployed women every month. These figures are only expected to rise as more women move out of employment as the furlough scheme closes.
Additionally, higher rates of redundancies have forced women into low paid, unstable employment and driven up the rates of in-work poverty to a record high. With a 14% increase during the pandemic, nearly 38,000 employed women now access Universal Credit across Liverpool City Region compared to 25,000 employed men.
Chief executive at The Women’s Organisation, Maggie O’Carroll, says:
“To say I’m dismayed at the news of the Government’s proposed cut to Universal Credit is a huge understatement. It illustrates starkly how out of touch the Government is with the most vulnerable members of our society.
“What may be the cost of a bottle of wine for our friends in Whitehall is a weekly shop for the millions of people that this decision will most affect.
“The number of people accessing Universal Credit has almost doubled nationally throughout the pandemic. The £20 weekly uplift now provides a vital lifeline for around 5.9 million people across the UK.
“Following the announcements about national insurance increases, as well as soaring food and energy bills, this comes as another devastating blow. It could force many mothers into making crippling decisions between keeping warm and putting food on the table this winter. That is the reality.
“Our research indicates women in the Liverpool City Region will be hardest hit by the cuts. During the pandemic women accessing Universal Credit outnumbered men by eight to one. Women have also been most affected by high rates of redundancies across the region and forced into low paid and often unstable employment.
“In-work poverty in the region is now at a record high and 38,000 employed women now access Universal Credit across Liverpool City Region, compared to 25,000 employed men.
“And while 1,200 fewer unemployed men have accessed Universal Credit since last summer across the Liverpool City Region, the number of women accessing the same support has grown by 4000. This roughly equates to 300 more unemployed women every month. The figures are startling and are only set to rise as more women move out of employment as the furlough scheme closes.
“There’s no disputing that proposed cuts to Universal credit will send huge ripples through our communities. We strongly urge the Government to reconsider their plans and put forward an alternative that does not neglect the thousands of people they should be trying their hardest to protect.”
To read our full report ‘Impact of Universal Credit cuts on Women, Liverpool City Region 2020 – 2021’ click here