I attended an event in Bristol on International Women’s Day, Confronting Women’s Poverty: Turning Things Around. Unfortunately, I missed the morning session but was able to catch the afternoon discussions. Jane Emanuel from Bristol Advice Network gave an excellent talk on ‘Welfare Myths’. There was lots of information and stats about the attacks on benefits and the appalling myths orchestrated by the government and the media.
She quoted from TUC research about the perception people have about welfare benefits, perceptions fed by the media. There’s around 0.7% benefits claimed fraudulently yet people interviewed in the research by the TUC think it’s more like 27%
The benefits cap will come into force on the 15 July 2013, it will impact on 377 families in Bristol.
In Bristol 17, 429 council houses were bought under the “right to buy” scheme . That means they are not let by the local authority instead it’s about the transferring of wealth from people who need housing to private landlords/wealthy
From April 2013 – Bedroom tax will cause misery, rent arrears, homelessness, court proceedings
Number people affected Annual increase for 1 extra bedroom (14%) Annual increase for 2+ bedrooms (25%)
Source: National Housing Federation
It is also estimated that around 26,000 people in Bristol on Disability Living Alliance (DLA) will be transferring over to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from April 2013 onwards which will cause problems in itself.
Statistics regarding women in Bristol
Women form the majority of public sector workers in Bristol, for example, 63% work for the council.
Public sector has experienced severe job cuts therefore this will disproportionately affect women.
44,460 of women receive out of work benefits in Bristol. The 2010 budget cost women £44 million.
43,340 women in Bristol are likely to be raped or sexually abused at some point in their lifetime.
55,000 women in Bristol are likely to experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Because of cuts services provided to support women are under threat, loss of funding, budget cuts to the court system, legal aid cuts, cuts to welfare benefits and housing benefits.
Women in Bristol are two ad a half times more likely than men to suffer anxiety and depression.
Again, with the cuts women will be disproportionately affected.
There was an interesting discussion about the way forward. It was excellent to see and hear contributions from women trade union activists (PCS and Unison had stalls). There were ideas setting up claimants’ unions, general discussion on class, poverty, representation of women, media, defending the welfare state, feminism, labour and trade union movement, Unite Community Membership, tax avoidance and evasion.
One woman asked where was the outrage? Good question. It will get worse for women. There is activism but this needs to be linked up, alliances to be built. Bristol Advice Network says that around half a million will be made in legal aid cuts. There will be only ONE advice centre in the whole of the South West who will be able to deal, free, with immigration issues. The speaker from Bristol Advice Network spoke about how the attacks on legal aid will have an impact. I saw a very long queue outside an advice centre on the bus to work the other day, that will get so much worse. Obviously, with the attacks on benefits will precisely mean more people needing advice. Bristol Advice Network are setting up support groups and as part of highlighting these attacks is to get people who need advice down to their MP surgeries (especially ones who voted for these cuts) and to clog those surgeries up! And indeed this will ram the impact of these attacks home to MPs.
See also: Cutting Women Out of Bristol