Where parties stand on the issues affecting women

In 2011, 24 per cent of mothers said welfare reforms had forced them to give up work


According to a YouGov poll conducted earlier this month, men and women have broadly similar priorities for this election, with the economy and the health service high on the list of concerns.

But what this poll didn’t show is which policies have a disproportionate impact on women. Here are a few of the issues that women should be concerned about this election, and here’s what the five UK-wide parties are offering to do about them.


Why it affects women more:

Over this parliament, the cost of a nursery place for a child under two has increased by 33 per cent, and the 2010 budget reduced the amount of childcare costs the state will cover for low-income families by 10 per cent (through cutting the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit). The 2011 census showed that women accounted for 92 per cent of lone parents with dependent children and men accounted for just eight per cent. A survey conducted by Working Mums found that 24 per cent of mothers had to give up work as a result of the changes.

What the parties say:

The Conservatives have pledged to bring in tax-free childcare. They will also double the existing free childcare for three and four-year-olds to 30 hours a week for families where all parents are working.

Labour have pledged to give 25 hours of free childcare per week for parents of three and four-year-olds. They promise to double the number of childcare places available at Sure Start centres, providing at least 50,000 more places, and will introduce a legal guarantee to ensure that parents of primary-aged children can access childcare from 8am to 6pm through their local school.

The Lib Dems want to introduce 20 hours of free childcare a week for all two to four-year olds and all children of working parents from nine months. They have pledged to complete the introduction of tax-free childcare.

The Green Party say they will extend the hours of nursery entitlement for three and four-year-olds, and provide free but voluntary universal early education and childcare between the ages of one and six. Working grandparents will be given the same right to flexible work as parents, if they are the primary carers.

UKIP say they will ‘be producing plans’ to reduce the cost of childcare and offer parents a wider choice of providers. They have also pledged to provide breakfast and after-school clubs for all school-age children.

Sex education

Why it affects women more:

85,000 women are raped each year in England and Wales. A strong sex and relationships curriculum is vital to teach children about sexual consent, gender stereotypes and healthy relationships. With online pornography more accessible than ever, education is vital to ensure that misogynistic behaviour is not normalised.

What the parties say:

The Conservatives have refused to make age-appropriate sex education mandatory in primary schools.

Labour will introduce compulsory, age-appropriate sex and relationship education to all primary schools.

The Lib Dems have pledged to introduce age-appropriate sex and relationship education, and Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) to all state-funded schools.

The Green Party will make PSHE a compulsory part of the curriculum. It will include age-appropriate LGBTIQ inclusive sex, relationship and HIV education.

UKIP refuse to make sex education compulsory in primary schools. Even at secondary level parents will be given the right to withdraw children from sex education if they choose. They have called Labour’s plans a ‘disgrace’.


Why it affects women more:

In general women rely more on benefits and tax credits than men, due to having more caring responsibilities and relative economic inequality. The Fawcett Society found that on average, one-fifth of women’s income is made up of welfare payments and tax credits compared to one-tenth for men, and that since 2010 74 per cent of savings from benefit and tax changes has come from women.

In March, the Supreme Court argued that the Tory benefit cap was in breach of children’s rights, as it has a disproportionate effect on women and children. The cap limits the benefit an out of work family can receive to £500 a week, regardless of family size, rental costs or exceptional circumstances; the March appeal was brought by two single mothers fleeing domestic violence who were at risk of homelessness due to the cap.

What the parties say:

The Conservatives are planning £12bn further cuts to welfare, although so far they have not specified which areas will be hit. Leaked emails suggest they are planning to limit child benefit to the first two children in a family.

Labour have pledged to abolish the Bedroom Tax and pause and review the controversial Universal Credit scheme. But there will also be a cap on the overall welfare spend, including child benefit.

The Lib Dems say they will not enter another coalition with the Conservatives if the £12bn cuts are carried out. But they have not pledged to rule out cuts to child benefit altogether.

The Green Party will axe the Bedroom Tax and scrap the welfare cap. They will increase child benefit by more than double to £40 a week for each child.

UKIP will scrap the Bedroom Tax. They will also limit child benefit for new claimants to the first two children, and stop any new arrivals to Britain from receiving benefits for themselves and their dependants for at least five years.

Domestic Violence

Why it affects women more:

In the UK, two women die at the hands of a violent partner or former partner every week. Thanks to coalition cuts, 112 women and 84 children were turned away from refuges in a single day in 2014 because there was not enough space. In the first two years of this parliament, funding for the domestic and sexual violence sector was cut by 31 per cent.

Meanwhile, legal aid has been cut, meaning that it is much, much harder to get legal aid for domestic violence cases. Strict evidential eligibility requirements place obstacles in the way of legal access for the most vulnerable women.

What the parties say:

The Conservatives say they will ‘work with local authorities, the NHS and Police and Crime commissioners to ensure a secure future for specialist FGM and forced marriage units, refuges and rape crisis centres’. No mention of their cuts to services, but they say they will ‘review’ legal aid cuts.

Labour have pledged to reduce the cut in financing for women’s refuges and set up a £3m fund for domestic violence services. They will also introduce a commissioner for Domestic and Sexual Violence. Shadow Justice minister Sadiq Khan has said making it easier for victims to access legal advice will be a priority.

The Lib Dems voted against coalition cuts to legal aid and now promise to review the situation. They are promising a change in law which would give women the right to ask whether her partner has a violent past; using £2.92 million to create sexual violence advisers and young people’s advocates, who support girls at risk of sexual exploitation, particularly by gangs, and making stalking a criminal offence for the first time.

The Green Party will expand access to counselling for victims, witnesses and perpetrators of abuse. They propose a coordinated programme involving any public body which may have information about individuals and families at risk. They are the only party to fully commit to reversing all legal aid cuts.

UKIP have not mentioned refuges or legal aid in this election campaign.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.