On the eve of International Women’s Day a new report says Tory austerity has resulted in a “triple whammy” of attacks on working class women.
The report from the Women’s Budget Group looked at the impact of cuts in local government. The Tories slashed government funding for local authorities by 49 percent between 2010-11 and 2017-18.
The report said the cuts to services have been “destructive and debilitating for women”. Heather Wakefield, author of the report, said, “Austerity is shrinking women’s lives.”
Women don’t only lose services that they use themselves. They also take on more unpaid work themselves to fill the gap felt by children, older or vulnerable family members who also rely on the services.
On top of this, 78 percent of council workers are women, along with 90 percent of teaching assistants and school support staff. So women have borne the brunt of cuts to jobs, pay and conditions.
Between June 2010 and 2016 760,000 jobs went in local government in England and Wales. And eight years of real terms pay cuts between 2009 and 2017 saw local government pay plummet by 21 percent.
On top of the cuts, the report said privatisation has harmed the pay, conditions and pensions of local authority workers – predominantly women.
Black, Asian and ethnic minority women have been hit the hardest by tax changes, benefit cuts and cuts to public spending.
Cuts have hit bus services, libraries and youth, community and leisure centres. The report referred to a 2014 report into the impact of cuts that found over a third of women felt more cut off from their communities.
Since then things have got worse. Nearly 350 playgrounds have shut since 2014, along with 1,000 Sure Start centres.
Cuts have also harmed women’s health with councils slashing sexual health promotion, substance misuse prevention and other intervention services.
The most vulnerable women have been left without a safety net. The report said 1.2 million women in England and Wales suffered domestic abuse in 2017. Yet more than three quarters of England’s local authorities slashed spending on refuges by nearly a quarter between 2010 and 2017.
In one six-month period in 2017, more than 1,000 women and children were turned away from refuges. “A third of all referrals are currently turned away,” it said.
Other Tory policies have disproportionately made life harder for working class women. Universal Credit (UC), for instance, has left women poorer. A report on the impact of UC by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston slammed the system.
He said, “If you got a group of misogynists in a room and said, ‘How can we make this system work for men and not for women?’ they would not have come up with too many ideas that are not already in place.”
Such a catalogue of assaults should be a call to action for the trade union leaders and the Labour Party.