The existing inequality facing women today has been further aggravated by the reforms to the social security system by the Conservative Government at Westminster.
Women are twice as likely to rely on income from social security payments as men – and so it has been women who have bore the brunt of the UK Government’s callous cuts for the last five years.
Since 2010, £26 billion has been taken from benefits, tax credits, pay and pensions – 85% of which has been taken from women’s incomes. The cumulative impact of these reforms has had a damaging and disproportionate impact on disabled women, lone parents, carers and those experiencing domestic abuse.
The SNP Government uses the current powers of the Scottish Parliament to help reduce the inequality women face. We have increased childcare to improve outcomes for children, and support more women back into work. All three and four year olds, and the most disadvantaged two year olds are now entitled to 600 hour of early learning and childcare and by the end of the next parliament we will double the available hours per week from 16 to 30.
We have developed the Scottish Welfare Fund and provides Community Care grants to support the most vulnerable through special difficulties. Furthermore, with an investment of £90 million between 2013 and 2016 in Discretionary Housing Payments we are protecting low income families from the impact of the Bedroom Tax.
The SNP welcomes the further devolution of some limited powers over social security to Scotland in order for us to further rectify some of the systematic inequalities that women face. In the first year of the next parliament we will bring forward a Social Security Bill. This will allow us to introduce measures to address weaknesses in Universal Credit, mitigate as far as we can the impact of UK Government welfare cuts and abolish the Bedroom Tax.
However, even after these powers are devolved, too many powers over welfare (as well as 85% of funding) will remain in the hands of the UK Government.