Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC) have long predicted the disproportionate impact of public sector cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women. For the last four years we have been campaigning around the country highlighting the awful consequences of Government cuts on Black communities some of whom are the most deprived in the UK.
Black communities are are among some of the hardest hit by the Government’s programme of spending cuts according to a ground-breaking new report published today by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick, Coventry Women’s Voices, Coventry Ethnic Minority Action Partnership and Foleshill Women’s Training.
The ground breaking report entitled, Layers of inequality: a human rights and equality impact assessment of the cuts on BAME women in Coventry examine the impact of cuts BAME in a range of areas including employment, housing, welfare benefits, health, social care, education, legal aid, violence against women and voluntary organisations.
BARAC believes that these figures are reflective of the anecdotal evidence available to us from around the country, that confirms that the cuts to public sector and local authority budgets are having a hugely damaging effect on already deprived communities across the country.
In the UK, largely because of the racism in the employment practices in the private sector, black women are more likely to work in the public sector. They are largely located in the lower and junior administrative roles and its these post so have been disproportionately affected by job cuts and pay freezes.
The scale of the economic devastation is without precedent. At no point in modern British history have black communities faced such a high level of economic exclusion. This local study has found that Unemployment among BAME women in Coventry increased by 74.4% between 2009 and 2013. Unemployment among white British women increased by 30.5% during the same period. (1)
The consequences of the economic firestorm that is englufing our communities has seen Black youth employment rise to 56%. Government has been slow to provide up to date statistics in an easily digested form. We estimate that nationally black youth unemployment are now pushing 65% and rising, in some local ward this rises as high as 75-85%.
The awful reality is that this deeply damaging, hugely disproportionate economic pain is just the beginning.
With yet more swingeing cuts to local government budgets announced in the recent Spending Review will lead to further job cuts for BAME women. Welfare benefits cuts are yet another area where Black communities are being very badly impacted. The Coventry report identifies that " BAME women are much more likely to be poor and receive a higher proportion of their income from benefits and tax credits. Cuts to welfare benefits will cost all women in Coventry £76 million a year out of a total of £112 million(2). BAME women are among those hardest hit – the Government’s assessment of the benefits cap concluded that 40% of families affected would include someone who is BAME."
Lee Jasper Co Chair of BARAC responded,
" The majority of our communities are already living in islands of poverty, debt, deprivation surrounded by seas relative wealth and prosperity. Black communities have for many decades inhibited an economic twilight zone, where they suffered greater levels of unemployment, poverty, ill health, poor housing, worse schools alongside the resulting violent criminality. Black communities exist precariously on very edge of a deep economic abyss prior to the current economic crisis
These figures now confirm our worst fears. The full impact of the Government economic policies is resulting in a deepening and heightening racial disadvantages. Desperately poor Black communities are being condemned to watch their local neighbourhoods become deserts of hope and opportunity, that will see the rapid descent into a dank economic abyss.
The consequences of this precipitous economic decline will be catastrophic for black communities and the country at large. All of the social ills that affect our desperately poor communities will be grossly exacerbated, aggravated becoming toxic swamps of desperate poverty, tragic violence and deep despair.
Black communities nationally need to wake up to the danger they and their children now face before areas like Brixton turns into the Bronx."
KKindy Sandhu from Coventry Women’s Voices who authored the report said:
"Our report shows that BAME women are among the hardest hit by public spending cuts across many areas. Now the spending review is making a bad situation worse. BAME women will lose more jobs, more money and more services. This is a big issue for Coventry since a third of our population is BAME, but it will be the same for BAME women across the country. We did not cause this situation, but we are paying the price for it."
When Black women are hit hard the knock on effect is to undermine the whole family. With many black women bringing up children on their own we will see whole families being sucked into acute levels of poverty.
Local authorities are breaking the law by failing to conduct Equalities Impact Assessments in accordance with the Equality Act. Unfortunately the Equality and Human Rights Commission has become a toothless poodle and is refusing to use the courts to enforce the law. BARAC is of the view that if the EHRC is refusing to act then Trade Unions must legally challenge the obvious racial disproportionality of both local or public sector cuts. Failure to do so will be leave vulnerable communities subject to racism without any recourse to legal protection.
Dr James Harrison of the Centre for Human Rights in Practice and co-author, added:
"The combined impact of cuts to benefits and services will disproportionately affect many of the poorest and most vulnerable BAME women in Coventry. Public authorities both nationally and here in Coventry have legal obligations under the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act to promote equality and protect human rights. They need to take these obligations very seriously when making decisions about budget cuts."
Varinder Kaur from Coventry Ethnic Minority Action Partnership commented :
The announcement that job seekers must learn English in the spending review seems designed to demonise us. The problem is not that people refuse to learn English – the problem is that it is getting harder to get on an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class. The Government seems to be deliberately creating the impression that the problem is about people who don’t speak English but claim benefits, even though they must know that the proportion of people who are claiming benefits and can’t speak English is miniscule, far smaller than the proportion of people who want to learn English but can’t get on a course.
Christine McNaught from Foleshill Women’s Training said:
At Foleshill Women’s Training we provide health and employment services to women in one of the poorest parts of Coventry. The women who use our centre are suffering increased poverty because of benefit cuts, longer waiting times for medical treatment and cuts to local services. And because our funding has fallen from £450k in 2010/11 to £190k in 2012/13 we have fewer resources to support them.
Notes to editors:
A full copy of the report is available at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/chrp/projects/humanrightsimpactassessments/women/
1. Source: Nomis (2013) Job Seekers Allowance Claimants data for Coventry by ethnicity, age, gender and duration February 2009 to February 2013,
2. Calculated based on the conclusion of work by the Fawcett Society that 68% of the cost of welfare reforms would hit by women. Fawcett Society (2012) “How have Coalition budgets affected women?” Cost of benefit cuts in Coventry based on Beatty, C. and Fothergill, S. (2013) “Hitting the Poorest Places Hardest: the local and national impact of welfare reform.” Sheffield Hallam University. See page 4 for a link to a spread-sheet showing cuts by local authority.
3. Source: Coventry rent market summary (2013).
The Centre for Human Rights in Practice provides a focus for academics, students, practitioners and activists who wish to advance the study and promotion of human rights at a local, national and international level. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/chrp/
Coventry Women’s Voices works to ensure that women’s voices are heard in Coventry when policy is made.www.coventrywomensvoices.wordpress.com
Coventry Ethnic Minority Action Partnership works with people, organisations and agencies to improve the delivery of services to Ethnic Minority Communities in Coventry. www.cemap-coventry.org.uk
Foleshill Women’s Training are dedicated to helping all women in Coventry and the surrounding areas through social, health and economic programmes. http://www.fwt.org.uk/