Women and Social Exclusion: Oxfam submission to NAP 2008 | Social Exclusion | Poverty

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The GenderWorks project was ran by in 2008-2009 in partnership with two European organisations, WAVE in Austria and Lamoro in Italy, and focused on investigating women’s experiences of social exclusion in Europe and the policy processes and methodological tools that can be used to address women’s social exclusion. This document – one of the final products of this project – is the compilation of the findings of the research outlined above and presented in a submission to the UK’s National Action Plan on Social Inclusion (NAP) 2010.
   G e n d e r W o r ks O x fam submission  to NAP  2008  – Women and Social E xclusion   April 2008  GenderWorks2 1. Introduction 1.1  Oxfam works to overcome poverty and inequality all over the world, including in the UK. We raise public awareness of poverty to create pressure for change. And we work with policymakers to tackle the causes of poverty. Since 2002, Oxfam has worked with grassroots activists, community groups, regeneration and service delivery practitioners, and policymakers in England, Scotland and Wales to improve the lives of women and men by focusing on gender issues in regeneration programmes. Now Oxfam has partnered with two European organisations, WAVE in Austria and Lamoro in Italy, on Gender Works, a two-year project to investigate women’s experiences of social exclusion in Europe and the policy processes and methodological tools that can be used to address women’s social exclusion. The project will report in autumn 2009, and findings will be presented in a submission to the UK National Action Plan (NAP) 2010. 1.2  Tackling women’s social exclusion is key to tackling women’s poverty. People’s experiences of poverty differ according to their gender, as well as their race, age and where they live. And people’s needs, assets and the barriers they face in overcoming poverty are also gendered. In this submission to the UK National Action Plan 2008 we focus on women’s experiences of social exclusion, and provide recommendations for social inclusion policy to meet the needs of low income women. We also comment on the methodologies used by the UK government to measure social exclusion and how they could be improved to give a better picture of why and how women experience social exclusion. Designing and implementing policy from an understanding of the how and why women experience poverty will ensure that interventions not only meet women’s particular needs, but go further and address the deep structural and systemic barriers that cause and deepen women’s social exclusion. 2. Gender and the NAP Process Data collection and disaggregation, and indicator setting 2.1 The European Commission has critiqued the UK NAP reporting process for its failure to systematically mainstream gender, and the government has responded in a number of different ways over time. In this section we look at what Oxfam views as essential in terms of data collection and disaggregation, and indicator setting and analysis in order to tackle women’s social exclusion more effectively; and what has been done in the last two rounds of NAPs. Our analysis is followed by recommendations for future action. 2.2  Oxfam has learned that several factors need to be in place for successful identification of the issues that put women at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion. The first is data gathering to create a baseline about the situation of men and women in areas of social exclusion such as employment, access to benefits, health and education. This needs to be achieved at the level of the household, as well as in the public sphere. The second is collation of the disaggregated data to create a picture of what is happening to men and women differently across areas of social exclusion. The third is analysis of that data, which means going beyond collation and comment, to analyse where women and men are doing better or worse than each other, and to seek reasons based on contextual analysis of why this is the case. The final factor is the making of proposals on what policy would be necessary to tackle women and men’s different reality of social exclusion. 2.3 Oxfam’s analysis of the last two Opportunity for All reports (Seventh Report, 2005, and Eighth Report, 2006, strategy and indicators documents) is that they go some way towards achieving some of the factors above, but not far enough. The Seventh Report introduced a specific chapter in which the poverty and social exclusion of women was the focus, and relevant policies that the government believed assisted women out of social exclusion. The Eighth Report took a different approach, reporting on how the situation of target groups (e.g. children, people of working age) were doing well or badly in relation to previously set baselines. In this indicators document there are regular but not systematic comments on gender and ethnicity in relation to the indicators. 2.4  While there are gaps in the availability of gendered data on social inclusion, especially at household level, which has a particular impact on the picture of who gets what benefits, and intra-household income, overall the UK has continued to improve in its data collection techniques and analysis at both local and national level. However, the availability of data by gender continues to be patchy, and insufficiently collated and analysed. There have been significant numbers of research reports 1 2 3  published in the last few years which GenderWorks Oxfam submission to NAP 2008 – Women and Social Exclusion  Oxfam submission to NAP 2008 – Women and Social Exclusion3Oxfam submission to NAP 2008 – Women and Social Exclusion demonstrate that women continue to be the majority in socially and economically disadvantaged groups, yet this research does not feed through into analysis and active policy making in ways that significantly impact upon their structural disadvantage. While the decisions not to analyse and act on women’s social inclusion are primarily political, the need and urgency could be better demonstrated by cross-department action that is encouraged and supported by the DWP as the key body charged with anti-poverty and social inclusion policy. Recommendations: ã Reinstate in the NAP 2010 a specic chapter or study of the situation of women using the latest government and external research.ã Improve DWP and other departments’ research and information gathering capacity. ã Develop the DWP work on indicators to routinely analyse and comment on the picture of how women and ethnic minorities are faring, publishing the ndings in the NAP 2010.ã Commission an independent analysis of how the UK Government is matching up to best practice in targeting social exclusion across the EU and follow up on its recommendations.ã The DWP and the Cabinet Ofce, as the government centres for excellence on the study of social exclusion and poverty, should hold discussions with relevant government departments at key moments in the planning and decision making cycle which would enable women’s social exclusion to be more effectively targeted and dealt with in policy-making. Women’s input into the NAP process2.5  The government has worked hard, with much success, to open up opportunities for people on low incomes to input into the NAP process in the UK. Support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for both the Get Heard 4  and Bridging the Policy Gap 5  projects was followed up in July 2007 with the first UK conference for people experiencing poverty. Held at the University of Warwick over two days, the conference brought together 52 people to talk to government officials about a wide range of government policies addressing social exclusion. Forty-one of the delegates were women, from a range of grassroots community-based organisations from around the UK. 2.6  Bridging the Policy Gap was a 12-month project funded to increase awareness of European action in the field of social inclusion and social protection. The project brought together officials from central, devolved and local government, academics, and people with experience of poverty and their voluntary organisations, to identify and assess how national policies tackling social exclusion were being implemented at local level. The project adapted the European ‘peer review’ model, and assessed projects in four locations. Two of these addressed issues experienced predominantly by women: The City and County of Swansea’s Play Strategy and Glasgow City Council’s implementation of the Working for Families Fund. 2.7  Oxfam has welcomed the opportunity to participate in a NAP stakeholder group, established by the DWP to enable voluntary sector organisations, including those that work closely with and involve people with experience of poverty, and government departments to exchange information and raise issues regarding social exclusion to support the DWP through the process of compiling the National Action Plans. The DWP has organised events to bring a variety of stakeholders together, which have been well attended. A number of participants in these events have been women, many of the issues raised have been specific to women’s experience, and many of the projects and government interventions showcased in these meetings have focused on women’s needs. 2.8  While all these initiatives have seen a high participation of women, this has remained ad hoc and informal. Oxfam’s experience of supporting women’s participation in influencing policy, in the Women’s Economic Empowerment project in Scotland and through the Voices of Experience project 6 , shows that poor women need extra support to build their knowledge and confidence to take part in policy processes. While they are often well-represented in community groups, women are in the minority when it comes to making the decisions; women’s organisations represent around seven per cent of the total voluntary and community sector, but on LSPs, they represent less than two per cent of voluntary sector representatives 7 . Yet we know from our extensive work on regeneration in England that gender equality in service planning and delivery results in better outcomes for all in the community  – more effective and fairer targeting of resources results in service provision that is more accessible and appropriate, based on a more accurate understanding of needs. 2.9  Oxfam’s experience shows that women’s participation at the grassroots level ensures that women’s issues are raised and made visible. The Get Heard project, while not aimed solely at women, clearly showed that where women are involved in deliberation about government policy, the impact of  GenderWorks4 policy and economic and social policy on women’s complex lives is drawn out. The Get Heard report highlighted women’s concerns in a variety of policy areas – from Tax Credits to support for children and young people, from benefits to work and training opportunities – providing material for an analysis of government interventions through a gendered lens. Recommendation: Develop a clear strategy to ensure the participation of grassroots women and women’s community-based organisations in the NAP process and report on it in the 2010 NAPs. 3. Women and Social Exclusion3.1  In the UK, more women than men live in poverty, and women are more likely to experience persistent poverty. Much of this is due to the pattern of women’s lives. At work, women still earn less than men; women are more likely to be out of work than men, are more likely to be in part-time work, and are concentrated in lower-paid work. Women’s working patterns are often shaped by their social roles: women are more likely to take on unpaid caring responsibilities, and many head their own households, without financial support, especially as lone parents and single pensioners. The full impact of these disruptions to mainstream economic and social participation is seen in women’s poor pension entitlements and social isolation in old age – problems that are compounded by women’s greater longevity and increased risk of living alone. 3.2  This pattern of disadvantage experienced by women means that they are more likely to face social exclusion, especially at key ‘drop off’ points in their lives (e.g. childbirth, separation, retirement) and once excluded are less likely to benefit from government interventions. Policies to tackle women’s poverty and social exclusion must therefore be based in an understanding of the complex picture of women’s lives. Promoting active inclusion3.3  There is a wealth of evidence to show that women in general have lower incomes than men. Twenty-five per cent of women live in poverty 8 . Around 30 per cent of women have total, net and disposable incomes of less than £100 per week, more than twice the total proportion of men 9 . On average women earn 45 per cent less than men per week 10 . Women working full-time are paid on average 17 per cent less than men; for women working part-time the gap is 40 per cent 11 . The concentration of women in particular sectors also contributes to women’s lower earnings. For example, whilst 79 per cent of (predominantly low-paid) administrative and secretarial workers are women, as are 83 per cent of personal service workers, only nine per cent of skilled trades employees and 31 per cent of managers and senior officials are women 12 . 3.4  The reasons for disadvantaged women’s continued exclusion from the labour market are complex, reflecting an interplay of factors resulting in long-term exclusion, and a vicious cycle deepening their exclusion. A variety of solutions are required, linking proactive labour market policies with regeneration investment, sustained support for women’s complex needs, welfare and labour market reform, and strengthened labour market demand for high quality jobs 13 . 3.5  Women’s poverty is closely linked to their family status and caring roles, which can present barriers to active involvement in the labour market. Women are more likely to be carers and they make up 90 per cent of lone parents; they are seven times more likely than men to be out of work as a result of family responsibilities 14 . Even within couples, women are more often the main carers for children 15 . The continuing lack of sufficient affordable, accessible, high quality childcare acts as a further barrier to women participating in the labour market; there is only one registered childcare place for every three children under eight 16 , and 18 per cent of lone parents report that they are not working because they cannot afford childcare 17 . Recommendation: Take immediate action to enforce equal pay legislation; increase the availability of affordable childcare places; redesign the benets system so that it is compatible with a exible labour market. 3.6  Women’s exclusion from local labour markets is deepened through gender stereotyping in career support. Through the Routes to Work South project in South Lanarkshire, Oxfam worked with local advice and support services to help advisers identify where gender stereotyping was channelling women into low paid jobs and training schemes that were unlikely to improve their job prospects. While advisers did not overtly push men and women into stereotypical training and jobs, they did not actively challenge clients’ perceptions of their skills and abilities, or their beliefs and attitudes about work; when asked about why there were no girls on their course, young men on a manufacturing course said it was ‘because lassies like weans, and care is easier’. The project ran a pilot work experience placement in joinery for five girls, who said they had
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