How will the introduction of Universal Credit affect women in Wales?
Welfare Reform and specifically Universal Credit (UC) was back on our radar last week, as some of the Policy Team headed down to London to meet with MPs to discuss the potential impact these changes will have on women in Wales.
Universal Credit’s aim of helping and encouraging people to progress in the workplace is one that Chwarae Teg supports.
Enabling women to move into better paid work that makes the most of their skills is key to creating a Wales where women achieve and prosper.
This will partly be encouraged under UC by a new requirement for some in-work claimants to be looking to increase their earnings.
Claimants will be supported by Job Centre Plus Work Coaches to either increase their earnings or hours to reach a minimum income threshold.
From our point of view, it’s highly important that the introduction of this requirement really does support everyone to progress in work, and its delivery and implementation is done in way that doesn’t unintentionally impact negatively in women.
Here’s some of the key points that we brought to the attention of MPs and our recommendations to address them:
- Women continue to be more commonly found in low paid, part time work. This isn’t always down to choice, but as a result of their role as primary carer, or the dominance of this type of work in the sectors where women traditionally work.
- Wales in particular has an issue with low pay, and a higher usage of low-hours or even zero-hours contracts. This could make it harder for women workers in Wales to meet the minimum threshold.
- Due to the rural nature of many parts of Wales, the time and cost of travel could pose a significant barrier to people seeking another or ‘better’ job.
We asked MPs to consider the following during implementation of Universal Credit in Wales:
- Ensure that the Work Coaches receive comprehensive training that enables them to be sensitive to individual’s needs, including the barriers that women can face when looking to progress is work.
- Evaluation of the pilot schemes, which are currently ongoing, should include consideration of the different outcomes for men and women.
- Welsh and UK Governments work closely to ensure that devolved services that will affect the success of UC, such as childcare and transport, are adequate before full roll-out begins.
With a government report on in-work progression due out soon, and the pilot scheme underway, we will keep bringing these points to attention of decision makers at a Welsh and UK level in the months to come.
Full Briefing Paper. PDF. In-work progression in Universal Credit.