Women’s Health Outcomes DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Baroness EatonMain Page: Baroness Eaton (Conservative - Life peer)
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My Lords, it is nearly 40 years since a group of us women set up our country’s first women’s health advocacy group, with the aim of improving both equality of access for women’s health and prenatal mortality rates for women and babies, in addition to unlocking women’s voices and choices of maternity care. According to the same project, to this day women’s experiences remain poor and unequal.
While we continue to frame minority women, particularly Muslim women, within the parameters of numerous health and social problems, including domestic violence and cultural disadvantages, Muslim women’s presence in the public square remains negligible and they are mostly absent from NHS management and decision-making boards. Some minority women, when they are in such positions, feel so constrained in their advocacy on racism, prejudice and Islamophobia that in order to avoid political rejection they feel unable to effect any meaningful changes for women, who continue to have no voice and to experience generations of poor health and inequalities, as my noble friend Lord Boateng so ably pointed out.
The experience of Islamophobia is deep-rooted, affecting every sinew of politics, policies and, therefore, services. In maternity and care services, Islamophobia has continued to impact the quality of care, attitudes and behaviours for the last five decades. It is so regrettable that women continue to experience these painful inequalities. I do hope the new strategies that the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, so powerfully highlighted will speak to all women in all communities.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for this debate.
The key to reversing poor health for women is ensuring that the Government provide a range of public services related to women’s health, child and family care, domestic violence and reproductive and sexual health, as well as a just redistribution of wealth and income. Fiscal and welfare policies have major consequences for women but government announcements are rarely accompanied by any gender impact assessment.
Wage freezes for public sector workers have hit women the hardest, as many occupy low-paid jobs, but there has been no gender impact assessment even though poverty levels are higher for female-headed households. By freezing personal allowances, the 2021 Budget will force poorly paid women to pay more in tax. The 107 pages of the Budget document uses to the word “women” just three times. Childcare was not even mentioned. Some 46% of mothers being made redundant say that lack of childcare is a major factor in their redundancy.
The Government are cutting universal credit by £1,040 a year. That is not accompanied by any assessment of the impact on women. Janet Mackay from Oxfordshire wrote to me. She stated:
“My disabled daughter can’t just get a job and this cut will lower her quality of life. It’s monstrous to do this to the disabled.”
Despite gender inequalities, the Government raised the state pension age to 66 and deprived millions of 1950s-born women of their state pension for six years. The impact assessment said little about the quality of life for women. It does not get any easier after retirement either. As a fraction of average earnings, the UK state pension is one of the lowest in the industrialised world. The charity Independent Age has reported that 2.1 million pensioners are living in poverty and 1.1 million in severe hardship. People aged over 85 are most affected, and women are worse affected than men.
I therefore ask the Minister to give a public undertaking that all fiscal and welfare policies will be accompanied by an impact assessment from women’s perspective.