Community services for women � a lifeline removed

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2020 Community Conference and Seminar
31 October 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that support services for women are under ever increasing threat from funding cuts with many organisations reducing services, losing staff or closing altogether.

The community and voluntary (C&V) sector provides a range of services to women, children and families in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK. The services are wide ranging to meet the often complex needs of women and include advice and advocacy services including for those suffering domestic violence and sexual abuse, training for entering/re-entering employment, academic and vocational courses, capacity building, community leadership, health promotion, positive parenting and childcare.

Conference notes the lifeline that these services provide for women with families and particularly, women in Northern Ireland, who have experienced and continue to experience trauma from 30 years of conflict, who lost opportunities for education, careers, normal family life and who experience higher levels of poor mental and physical health.

Women in areas of high deprivation are likely to be more stressed and are more dependent on women�s services. Conference notes the increase in food banks among working families in these areas. Women�s centres and organisations are critical in providing women with support to access services and information that improve their health and wellbeing and that of their families.

With the introduction of Universal Credit and the digitalisation of this process, women�s centres and organisations provide an access point to help manage women�s claims – an intrusive process requiring women to present birth certificates, medical notes, passports and other important information to apply for benefits. This includes women in work. Without these services women would have to use public libraries or government offices that are not so accommodating of children or able to offer advice and support in an environment that is comfortable for women.

From 2010 the UK government began implementing cuts to all public spending at an unprecedented level. Conference is concerned about the impact of austerity cuts on women�s services at the very time they are most needed. Conference is concerned about the disproportionate impact on women who are affected by cuts as service users but also as providers who may be at risk of losing their job.

As government cuts the funding to these services year on year, the pressure women and families face is greater, placing women and families in precarious situations and removing a layer of protection that they offer.

Conference calls on the Community Service Group Executive to work with the National Women�s Committee to lobby and campaign for:

1) Full equality impact assessments of all funding cuts to community services and particularly women�s services;

2) Where inequalities are identified, a requirement to address these and demonstrate commitment to gender responsive budgeting;

3) A clear strategy on the part of the Government to deliver on public political commitments made to tackle the inequalities between men and women.