David Cameron's 'attack on women'

Halloween Cameron and Clegg costumesPA

The government cuts constitute an attack on women's financial security and their rights. This is the accusation being levelled by a think tank, the Fawcett Society.

As women voters desert Cameron in droves, the Society outlines the damage it says that the coalition is doing, and calls for a 'life raft'.

Attack on women

The Coalition's cuts have had a disproportionate effect on women. This is partly because it has involved things like axing child benefit for families where any member is a higher-rate tax-payer and cutting support for childcare for the lower paid. It has also cut back local government spending, which has hit children's services and services for the elderly - which has a disproportionate impact on mums and older women.

In addition, as social services are withdrawn, women are expected to fill the gap. Mothers pick up childcare and have to lose work, daughters pick up care for the elderly and cut back on their working hours. In the end it's the living standards of women that will suffer.

In total, the report says. 70% of all the benefit and spending cuts have come out of the pockets of women.

Pain of austerity

Anna Bird, chief executive of the Fawcett Society said: "Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality for women is being dismantled, as cuts to women's jobs and the benefits and services they rely on turn back time on women's equality.

"Fewer women working; a widening gap in pay between women and men; entrenchment of parental gender roles; increased risk of female poverty and dependency on family and the state for financial subsidy – this is the picture that emerges when the many policies of economic austerity are stitched together."

Losing support

Given that David Cameron is facing criticism for his failure to promote women, understand women, or build policies that support women, this is another blow. The latest figures already show that women voters are turning against him - and that those in skilled manual jobs in particular are dropping their support for the government.

The Fawcett Society has called for support for childcare costs for low-income families to be put back to the level it was at before this April. It wants Sure Start services to be protected from cuts as it is these services which help many mums back into work, and it wants local authorities to be stopped from closing any more centres that support women affected by domestic violence.

It is going to be a tough question for the government to face. A hard line isn't going to impress disillusioned women, and they have heard the 'all in it together' line too many times while noting that it's mainly them feeling the pain. At the same time, he's not going to build a broad base of support from the public if he comes across as hitting vulnerable women the hardest.

This may just be one of those areas where the government has to give a bit.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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