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Equality unravelling as women face a devastating combination of cuts says new report

Hard won gains for women’s equality are in danger of unravelling as a result of the combined impact of public spending cuts according to a new report published today.

The report, Unravelling Equality: a human rights and equality impact assessment on the spending cuts on women in Coventry, published jointly by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices, highlights the impact of a range of public spending cuts on women.

The report concludes that the spending cuts will increase inequality between women and men and may seriously damage the human rights of some women. For example the combined impact of the spending cuts on women victims and survivors of rape or domestic violence poses a serious threat to their human rights which may lead to:

Victims and survivors will be affected by a range of cuts including:

  • Less successful investigation and prosecution of offenders
  • More on-going mental, physical and sexual health problems for women.
  • More women trapped in violent relationships
  • Services for women facing violence are under threat. Some agencies have already lost significant funding, funding for other services is under review
  • The police and crown prosecution service are both facing budget cuts which voluntary organisations fear may reduce the support available to victims and survivors.
  • The NHS is facing a budget cut which may reduce the level of support available to victims of violence
  • Cuts to legal aid will reduce the ability of women suffering violence to get the legal help and support they need.
  • Cuts and other changes to welfare benefits will make it harder for women to leave violent relationships
  • Cuts to housing benefit will make it harder for some women to move area to get away from their attacker.

The cuts will have a disproportionate impact on women, which will increase inequality between women and men.

  • Job cuts and public sector pay freezes will disproportionately impact on women and risk widening the pay gap
  • Changes to benefits and tax credits will cost women more than twice as much as they cost men, widening the gap between men and women’s income and pushing some women into poverty
  • Cuts to public services will hit women hardest. Cuts to childcare and support with childcare costs may push women out of the labour market. Cuts to adult social care will increase the burden on unpaid carers (mainly women).
  • Cuts to legal aid will disproportionately impact on women leaving some with no affective remedy for any abuses. (62.2% of applications for civil legal aid are by women).

Report co-author, Dr James Harrison of the University of Warwick’s Centre for Human Rights in Practice said:

"This assessment is a projection of what the spending cuts might mean to women. It uses Coventry as a case study but the findings relevant to the whole of the UK. It shows how a range of different cuts will all disproportionately impact on women. Public authorities both nationally and locally have legal obligations under the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act to promote equality and protect human rights. They need to take these obligations very seriously when making decisions about budget cuts."

Mary-Ann Stephenson report co-author and Chair of Coventry Women’s Voices said:

"Many of these cuts will make life harder for women. Taken together the affect will be devastating, particularly on the most vulnerable. Women who have been raped or abused may find it harder to get justice or the support they need. Some women and their children (particularly lone parents) may be pushed into poverty. The pay gap is likely to get worse. Women did not cause this situation, but we are paying the price."

Notes to editors

About The Centre for Human Rights in Practice

The Centre for Human Rights in Practice undertakes a wide variety of research, capacity building and project work aimed at promoting human rights locally, nationally and globally.

About Coventry Women’s Voices

Coventry Women’s Voices is an independent group of women’s organisations, organisations working with women and individuals, which works to make sure women’s voices are heard in Coventry when policy is made.

A full copy of the report is available at:

For more information about the launch see

For more information contact:

Dr James Harrison, Associate Professor
University of Warwick School of Law
Tel: 02476 523170

Mary-Ann Stephenson 01926 744 799 or 07957 338582

Peter Dunn, Head of Communications
Communications Office, University House,
University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)24 76 523708 Mobile/Cell: +44 (0)7767 655860

PR61 17th May 2011