- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Link to report here.
The majority of women living in a Swansea Valley community worry about money every day and have nothing put by for emergencies, a report has claimed.
Women and their families in Ystradgynlais are struggling to cope with the combined impact of welfare reforms and limited access to employment. That is according to a study by the Bevan Foundation think tank, commissioned by Assembly Member Joyce Watson.
The Labour Mid and West AM said:
“The proportion of women claiming a benefit in Ystradgynlais is more than twice the national average, so they’ve been hit especially hard by welfare reform. The bedroom tax and changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in particular have taken a big chunk out of women’s incomes.
“At the same time, limited access to good jobs either in Ystradgynlais or easily commutable areas means most women are struggling to make ends meet, whether or not they work.
Mrs Watson launched the report at the Welfare Hall in Ystradgynlais on Saturday (22 March 2014). The event was attended by Powys County Council’s Labour group and Welsh Government finance minister Jane Hutt.
The study, which was supported by Communities First Neath Port Talbot Western Cluster, surveyed 163 local women, and a focus group discussion explored in depth issues facing four out-of-work residents.
One woman in the focus group explained how benefit changes had affected her:
“I had my ESA stopped, they messed up my appeal shockingly. I couldn’t handle the stress – once I had won my appeal they tried to put me through it again…”
A third of women in the survey said they skipped meals to save money. One woman said:
“The kids would eat before me and my partner would, every time, and we’d have what was left…”
Researchers found that public transport has a considerable bearing on women’s job opportunities. In Ystradgynlais ward, 18 per cent of all households do not have a car or van. That figure rises to 40 per cent amongst people living in social housing. Even when the household does have a car, however, it may not be available for the woman in the household to use, for example if her partner uses the vehicle to get to his workplace.
A non-driver described her search for work:
“I’d like to be a support worker … I don’t drive so it’s got to be in the area where I live basically otherwise you’re talking about going on the bus and you’re talking about 3 or 4 hours to get to Swansea and back and that’s a long day.”
Nearly half of women in the survey (47%) disagreed that they had enough money to manage, and more than half (58%) said that they worried about money all the time. Nearly 6 out of ten (59%) disagreed that they had money put by for emergencies.
The report concluded that welfare reform has put people in Ystradgynlais and nearby communities under severe pressure. The area has a relatively high level of claims by both women and men for various in-and-out-of-work Department for Work and Pensions benefits. The proportion of women claiming a benefit in the Ystradgynlais ward is more than twice as great as in the whole of Wales. In May 2013, more than a quarter (27.2%) of women of working age in Ystradgynlais itself claimed a DWP benefit compared with 24.7% of men.
Mrs Watson added:
“George Osborne says austerity will continue under a Tory government. I commissioned the Bevan Foundation to find out what that really means for people living in the Ystradgynlais district. The message is clear: many women and their families are teetering on the financial brink – they need greater support.
“Demand for services is rising when public funding is being cut. Some of the service that the women we spoke to are most likely to turn to, such as advice services or charities that support people with mental health conditions, are under threat. Meanwhile, others, like the local food bank, are under pressure to fill a gap they weren’t designed for. Budgets are tight, yes, which is why it is critical that politicians, local and national, prioritise those services upon which people most rely”