Fighting the cuts and working for women in the days ahead

The Women’s Income Network (WIN) is a network of charities, MPs and individuals who have come together in order to construct an informed and unified response to each and every cut which will disproportionately affect women in the coming months and years. From the Fawcett Society to The Child Poverty Action Group, each participating organisation is working independently to protect those who will be disadvantaged by the coalition’s cuts.

Sarah Barber is a research intern at the Fabian Society

The Women’s Income Network (WIN) is a network of charities, MPs and individuals who have come together in order to construct an informed and unified response to each and every cut which will disproportionately affect women in the coming months and years. From the Fawcett Society to The Child Poverty Action Group, each participating organisation is working independently to protect those who will be disadvantaged by the coalition’s cuts.

WIN, however, is women-centric, combining the member organisations’ best talents – research, support on the ground and lobbying expertise – to combat the growing financial and social inequality which faces women today.

In Saturday’s Guardian, WIN highlighted its two most current concerns: the scrapping of universal child benefit and the government’s plans to abolish the principle of equal entitlement to state pension rights.

This is a ‘double whammy’, as the plans to withdraw child benefit from mothers in couple families with a higher-rate taxpayer do not stand alone.

Rather, the loss of child benefit will automatically result in mothers losing the Basic and Second State pension credits which accompany Child Benefit, one change further enhancing the damage of the other. As Alexandra Kemp of WIN points out, such a change “undermines the principle of equal entitlement to pension accrual established in the 2007 Pensions Act”. The Act was one which saw women being treated independently from men where pension accrual was concerned.

Contrary to the principle of independent taxation for women, the loss of Child Benefit for a woman’s children because of her partner’s earnings signals a return to women’s lower economic and social status. Simultaneously, both in the home and at work, women’s dependence on men is being championed. Additionally the government’s failure to guarantee the entitlement of women and mothers to the protection of state pension accrual means that women have an increased risk of poverty in old age.

So much for the rhetoric which suggested we would now be seeing the most ‘family-friendly Government in a generation’; the reality is that the Coalition Government plans to leave women unprotected, increasing their financial vulnerability rather than alleviating it.

Furthermore, such changes penalise women who are basic-rate taxpayers. It also prejudices stay at home mothers by withdrawing what may be their only guaranteed income without guaranteeing its restoration by the earning partner. Moreover, the changes undermine the 2007 pensions settlement which the Women and Pensions Network worked so hard to achieve.

As Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute writes:

“It is difficult to reconcile Cameron’s family-friendly ambitions with these radical changes to child benefit.”

This is a reaction which has reverberated through opposition parties, charities and think-tanks since the announcements were made in Mr Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review last month.

While the effects of the coalition’s cuts are still being analysed, one thing is clear: Women in this ‘new era’ of coalition politics are greatly in need of groups like WIN. Not simply will it attempt to place women’s social and financial equality at the heart of every statement and rebuttal it makes, but it will work to shine a light on every change which will disproportionately affect women in the days to come.

Let us hope, on behalf of women across Britain, that WIN seizes the opportunities in the days ahead, and ushers in a brighter future for us all.

• To find out more about the Women’s Income Network, log on to:

www.womensincomenetwork.org

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7 Responses to “Fighting the cuts and working for women in the days ahead”

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  5. jeff_h

    “WIN, however, is wimmin-centric”

    how very right-on

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