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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Women and disabled people hit hardest by years of austerity, report confirms

Date: 22/11/2017
Summary: Disabled people, single parents and women have been among the biggest losers under seven years of austerity, according to a report by the equalities watchdog.

While the poorest tenth of households will on average lose about 10% of their income by 2022 – equivalent to £1 in every £8 of net income – the richest will lose just 1%, or about £1 in every £250 of net income, the study carried out for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reveals.

David Isaac, the EHRC’s chairman, said the study showed the poorest households faced a “bleak future”, and called on ministers to review their plans. “The government can’t claim to be working for everyone if its policies actually make the most disadvantaged people in society financially worse off.”

The study modelled the cumulative impact on UK households by 2022 of all tax, social security and public spending policies carried out since 2010, including universal credit, VAT, and the national minimum wage. 

It found that because of the regressive nature of the reforms implemented by the coalition and Conservative governments, households in the bottom half of the income scale would lose about £1,500 a year, while the top 20% of households would lose between £200 and £600.

It found that while regressive tax and benefits policies were a mark of both governments since 2010, the impact of policy decisions taken by the two Conservative administrations since 2015 will be to reduce incomes for the poorest, while increasing incomes for the richest 20%.

Collectively, some groups were worse hit than others as a result of tax and benefit changes. The report found that:

The study found that households with the most serious disabilities – measured across a range of specific functional difficulties, including mobility and mental health – stand to lose most as a result of tax and benefit reforms, most notably as a result of cuts introduced under universal credit.

Measured on a scale of one to 10, households with a disability score of six or above lose 10% of net income on average, while those with a disability score of zero lose just 0.1% of income on average.

Women, who will lose about £940 on average from the reforms, lose more than men (£460 on average) at every income level. The study says this is because women are more dependent than men on benefits and tax credits, which have seen huge cuts since 2010.

The EHRC said the government had consistently refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of its policies, preferring to focus on the narrow impact of individual policies, but this study showed that such an exercise was both possible and necessary.

“If we want a prosperous and, in line with the prime minister’s vision, a fair Britain that works for everyone, the government must come clean and provide a full and cumulative impact analysis of all current and future tax and social security policies,” said Isaac.

“It is not enough to look at the impact of individual policy changes. If this doesn’t happen those most in need will face an extremely bleak future.”

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “The report is clear evidence that the government’s reforms have been having a massive negative effect, driving disabled people deeper into poverty when they already don’t have enough money to live on.”

Beatrice Barleon, policy manager for Mencap, said: “The government has repeatedly argued that they want to protect the most vulnerable in society, yet this report shows the opposite is in action. With some families with disabled members losing up to £5,500; disabled households are getting pushed into poverty at the same time as available social care support has been slashed year-on-year.”

Mark Atkinson, chief executive at the disability charity Scope, said: “The government has said it wants to make this a country that works for everyone, yet this report lays bare that life is still much tougher than it needs to be for many disabled people and their families.”

A government spokesman said: “Inequality is at a 30-year low and there are 1.4 million more women in work since 2010. We inherited the highest deficit since the second world war and have reduced our borrowing ever since, while protecting our public services, cutting income tax for 30 million people and ensuring those with the broadest shoulders contribute the most.”

Source: The Guardian

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