The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said an analysis of all the changes to tax, social security and public spending since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 showed the poorest citizens have been hit hardest by tax, social security and public spending reforms and are set to lose at least 10% of their income.
Ahead of next week’s budget, the Commission has published its independent report on the impact that changes to all tax, social security and public spending reforms from 2010 to 2017 will have on people by 2022.
Undertaken as a “cumulative impact assessment”, the Commission’s report, which looks at the impact the reforms have had on various groups across society, highlights that those political decisions will affect some groups more than others:
- black households will face a 5% loss of income (more than double the loss for white households)
- families with a disabled adult will see a £2,500 reduction of income per year (this is £1,000 for non-disabled families
- families with a disabled adult and a disabled child will face a £5,500 reduction of income per year (again, compared to £1,000 for non-disabled families)
- lone parents will struggle with a 15% loss of income (the losses for all other family groups are between 0 and 8%)
- and women will suffer a £940 annual loss (more than double the loss for men)
- the biggest average losses by age group, across men and women, are experienced by the 65 to 74 age group (average losses of around £1,450 per year) and the 35 to 44 age group (average losses of around £1,250 per year).
The government have persistently claimed that conducting a cumulative impact assessment of their “reforms” is “too difficult”.
David Isaac, of the EHRC, says: “We have encouraged the government to carry out this work for some time, but sadly they’ve refused. We have shown that it is possible.”
Previously, the Women’s Budget Group estimated that by 2020 women will shoulder 85% of the burden of the government’s changes to the tax and benefits system – with low-income black and Asian women paying the highest price.
The Centre for Welfare Reform calculated that disabled people are being hit nine harder than the rest of the population. These organisations managed to carry out cumulative impact assessments, and without the generous funding that the government has at their disposal. This demonstrates that there is a difference between finding something “difficult” to undertake, and not actually wanting to undertake the task, while making glib excuses to avoid doing so.
Public policies are expressed political intentions regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated social and economic aims and consequences. Governments generally monitor the impact of their policies. The Conservatives have refused to monitor the impact of their draconian welfare policies because they knew in advance that they are discriminatory.
Austerity policies target already economically marginalised groups, cutting their incomes further. It’s not plausible that ministers were unaware that this would lead to further economic disadvantage of those groups, while widening social inequality and increasing poverty.
While the poorest citizens are set to lose nearly 10% of their incomes, a minority of the wealthiest citizens will lose barely 1%, yet the government claim that inequality has “reduced.” Despite the claims that “We’re all in it together” and “we want to help tjose people “just about managing”, it’s clear that Conservative policies are completely detached from public interests and needs. Conservative austerity policies are designed and intended to intentionally discriminate aginst the very poorest citizens.
It is against the law to discriminate against socially protected groups – including on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, age and disability. The government’s traditional ideological prejudices, which have been clearly expressed in their socioeconomic policies, have brought about:
- the less favourable treatment of groups with protected characteristics
- the targeting of some social groups disproportionately with austerity policies that extend direct discrimination, leaving people with protected characteristics at an unfair disadvantage
Prices, as measured by official inflation figures, are nearly 14% higher now than they were in 2010, although Unison say that between the start of 2010 and the close of 2015, the cost of living, as measured by the Retail Prices Index, rose by a total of 19.5%. This creates even further hardship for those people already targeted by Conservative austerity cuts.
Traditional Conservative prejudices, which have ultimately led to economic marginalisation, disadvantage and stigmatisation of some social groups
David Isaac, the Chair of the EHRC, which is responsible for making recommendations to government on the compatibility of policy and legislation with equality and human rights standards, warned of a “bleak future”.
Isaac said: “The Government can’t claim to be working for everyone if its policies actually make the most disadvantaged people in society financially worse off. We have encouraged the Government to carry out this work for some time, but sadly they have refused. We have shown that it is possible to carry out cumulative impact assessments and we call on them to do this ahead of the 2018 budget.
“If we want a prosperous and, in line with the Prime Minister’s vision, a fair Britain that works for everyone, the Government must come clean and provide a full and cumulative impact analysis of all current and future tax and social security policies. It is not enough to look at the impact of individual policy changes. If this doesn’t happen those most in need will face an extremely bleak future.”
The Commission is calling on the Government to:
- commit to undertaking cumulative impact assessments of all tax and social security policies ahead of the 2018 budget
- reconsider existing policies that are contributing to negative financial impacts for those who are most disadvantaged
- implement the socio-economic duty from the Equality Act 2010 so public authorities must consider how to reduce the impact of socio-economic disadvantage of people’s life chances (the Conservatives edited the Labour party’s original version of Equality Act and removed this duty before implementing it).
The assessment undertaken by the EHRC considered changes to income tax, national insurance contributions, indirect taxes (VAT and excise duties), means-tested and non-means-tested social security benefits, tax credits, universal credit, national minimal wage and national living wage.
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