Cutting Women Out in Bristol
Anna Mapson is a member of Fawcett Bristol, and is on the Fawcett Society’s Board of Trustees. Here she discusses brand new Fawcett Bristol research on the impact spending cuts are having on women in the city.
I’m a part of Bristol Fawcett, a Local Fawcett group which is very active in the city. In the last 10 years we have been campaigning and lobbying for improved services for women and girls, and have brought a gender equality perspective to local decision-making bodies.
This week we published a report into the effect of the spending cuts on women in Bristol. We originally looked into the impact the cuts were having on women in 2011, you can read the report of our findings here. Our new report provides an update, giving a picture of the situation for women in Bristol in 2014. The findings paint a grim picture: inequality between men and women is increasing across the city.
Bristol Fawcett believes that these cuts are unfair, unnecessary and should be ‘consigned to the bonfires of history’. The swathe of spending cuts are creating a society where women are increasingly having their rights eroded, and many women are becoming increasingly vulnerable to poverty, exploitation and violence as a result. This growing inequality benefits no one. In fact, it creates a domino effect that results in a more fractured, divided and alienated society.
The research has been a huge piece of work, with lots of late nights which I’ve struggled to fit around my family life and other responsibilities.
But it was worth it – I wanted to update the report as I felt it was important to see what had changed for women in Bristol since 2011, and to see how Bristol is faring relative to the rest of the country. Whilst some decisions about women are taken at a national level, women live their lives at a local level and what happens in each city makes up the national picture.
Further, the 2011 report has influenced equality impact assessments, council decision making and local multi-agency discussions, so I knew it was necessary to invest the time in updating the research, so that equality between women and men is kept in the forefront of the minds of decision makers. We’ve distributed the report to the mayor, all local councillors, Bristol’s MPs, the Police & Crime Commissioner, the board of the Local Enterprise Partnership and head of Bristol CCG.
- Employment – Gender equality, the needs of women, and women’s access to employment are completely absent from the long-term strategic economic plan for the whole of the West of England.
- Housing – Housing in Bristol is already unaffordable for many on housing benefits, and is set to become ‘very unaffordable’ by 2021. Single women (including a large number of single mothers) are the main recipients of housing benefits, with over 5,000 women claiming Local Housing Allowance in Bristol compared to just 3,324 men. The increasing cost of housing, not matched by an equitable rise in housing benefits, will have a disproportionate impact on women and is likely to push more women into vulnerable situations.
- Income, Poverty and the rising cost of Childcare – Women in Bristol (and nationally) are poorer than men and receive a higher proportion of their income from benefits, including tax credits and out of work benefits. Nationally the cost of childcare rose by 19% in 2013, and Bristol was the top city outside London where unemployed parents would like to work but can’t afford to.
- Violence against Women – 43,340 women in Bristol are likely to be raped or sexually abused at some point in their lifetime and 68,800 women in Bristol are likely to experience domestic violence. We were pleased to find that Bristol City Council has increased funding for organisations working in this field, in stark contrast to other cities where large cuts have been made.
- Women’s Voluntary Organisations – We found that many women’s voluntary organisations are facing funding cuts whilst dealing with increasing demand from communities as a result of the recession and the impact of other public spending cuts.
- Transport – Patchy bus routes and expensive fares in Bristol can leave women isolated and unable to get to work, to further education centres or to reach support organisations. This has an impact on their life chances and social mobility.
As we head into the next General Election it is crucial that decision makers take notice of the inequalities stemming from these unfair policies, and seek to redress them. We hope local groups and others further afield who are affected by the cuts will use our report for the purpose of lobbying and to assist in building the case for legal action where appropriate or necessary.
A copy of Bristol Fawcett’s ‘Cutting Women Out’ is available at http://www.bristolfawcett.org.uk/Economy.html
More information at http://www.bristolfawcett.org.uk/ or @BristolFawcett
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