Austerity bites

Liza was 28, working in a bookshop, and studying for a second degree when she became pregnant. “We moved in together because we thought we ought to. That lasted for a year after she was born.” Liza and her partner made a plan for their daughter’s arrival; he would help with childcare so she could return to work. But the plan unravelled when he decided to embark on a career change during her pregnancy. “So he quit his job and that was very stressful. We had no income really.

“I felt like I wasn’t getting any support from him, and I wasn’t getting any support from anyone else because they all thought he should be supporting me. So I left in order to get some support.” Liza makes a wry face and laughs. She is nearly always laughing; her dry humour usually directed at herself.

Mother and baby survived on income support and tax credits, two “big” overdrafts from her student days and some child support from her daughter’s dad. “That put a strain on our relationship. He didn’t appreciate them taking money straight out of his wages.” But the bigger strain was on Liza, who, driven by loneliness and a desire to escape the constant worry, scoured her local community, a small town outside Bristol, for friendship. “I had gone from being a free spirit to a lonely isolated single parent.”

When Liza says ‘single parent’, her face changes and the heaviness of the stigma darkens her features. But in her eyes is a sharp defiance. Too often lone parents are caricatured in the press and by politicians, particularly if they are women, and these subtle prejudices seep into the lives of single parents as they battle for the services they need to do the difficult job of raising children alone.

Contrast the government’s eagerness to reward married couples to the rhetoric used when discussing social security for single parents.

Then look at the government’s latest childcare announcement, designed to reduce childcare costs through the tax system. This will subsidise childcare for middle to high earners and do little for those parents working below the tax threshold in part-time, low paid employment. And it is the dearth of affordable childcare that forces lone mothers into these jobs.

Find out what happens to Liza over at the New Statesman. I also wrote this piece on the impact of government policy on lone parents here.

Women on the Verge

Since 2010 women – old, young, rich, poor – have received blow after blow to their economic independence and social well being. Recent government policy indicates this will continue.

In its analysis of the Autumn Financial Statement the Women’s Budget Group found that women will pay for 81 per cent, just over a billion pounds, of the money raised by the Treasury in 2014/15. Cumulatively, women have paid over three-quarters of the cost to household income from net direct tax, benefit, pay and pension changes introduced by the Coalition since 2010.

Read the rest of this article over at the New Statesman.

The Women’s Budget Group (WBG) is an independent organisation of academics, economists, public policy experts and other professionals, who conduct gender equality assessments of the British government’s annual Budgets and Pre-Budget Spending Reviews. They argue that:

Gender budget initiatives go beyond the assessment of programmes targeted specifically at women and girls, and seek to expose assumptions of ‘gender neutrality’ within all economic policy – raising awareness and understanding that budgets will impact differently on women and men because of the different social and economic positioning.

to read the latest WBG analysis of the Autumn Spending Review 2012 or visit the group’s website to read their gender assessment of welfare benefit changes and the effect of government policy on single female pensioners.