Where’s the Benefit? An Independent Inquiry into Women and Jobseeker’s Allowance was published by the Fawcett Society on 5 February 2015.
The Inquiry found that aspects of the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) system is damaging hard won gains for equality between women and men and putting some women and their families at risk. Lone parents, women who suffer violence at home and women who have difficulties with English are being particularly hard hit.
The Inquiry was chaired by Amanda Ariss, Chief Executive of the Equality and Diversity Forum, and co-ordinated by the Fawcett Society. It found evidence of failings in both the design and the implementation of the JSA system. For example, although special arrangements should be made to protect claimants who are experiencing violence from a partner, claimants are not routinely told that this is possible. Lone parents, 92% of whom are women, are often expected to look for full time work involving three hours travel every day even when this makes it impossible for them to also look after their children.
As a result, some women are being expected to meet near impossible conditions in order to receive a basic benefit. When those conditions aren’t met these women are sanctioned, often losing all of their benefits – sometimes repeatedly – as the result of a system that doesn’t take account of the specific circumstances of many women’s lives.
Inquiry Chair Amanda Ariss said:
It is deeply worrying that a benefit that exists to support us all if we find ourselves out of work is putting vulnerable groups of women and their children at risk of unnecessary financial hardship, mental and physical ill-health and, in extreme cases, exploitation and abuse. This makes no sense.