Yesterday, millions of women and men across the world marked International Women’s Day. It is an important day to reflect upon how far women’s rights have advanced in the past 100 years, but it is also a stark reminder of current – growing – inequality and how much more needs to do be done in the UK and beyond.
Some worrying statistics show that 2020 may not be a time to celebrate for many women across the UK. Prosecutions for sex crimes have fallen, despite the number of rape cases being reported growing by 65%. The gender pay gap for full-time workers has increased and the social care crisis has pushed even more women, especially middle-aged women, into informal care for disabled children or older parents living with dementia for example. Informal care roles can damage women’s health and even women social workers are also frequently on low pay.
It was also revealed last week that women’s life expectancy has fallen in England’s poorest areas. The most disadvantaged communities have been systematically targeted for cuts and austerity measures over the past 10 years and women are seeing the negative consequences more than men. The Fawcett Society and other organisations warned of the consequences but Cameron, Clegg, May and Johnson have all ignored the impact of their policies on women in the UK.
I hope this week’s Budget addresses some of these worrying trends. From Opposition, I will continue to use my place in the Commons and on the Work and Pensions Select Committee to press the Government on policies that disproportionately impact women, such as waiting times for transitioning to Universal Credit and unfair changes to the women’s state age pension. Equally, through my work as the chair of the APPG on Ending Homelessness, I will continue to push the Government to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill so that anyone fleeing domestic abuse is provided with automatic priority need for permanent housing.