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2023 National Women's Conference
5 October 2022

Women are the ‘shock absorbers of poverty’. They tend to have the main responsibility for the purchase and preparation of food for their children and families, and for the management of budgets in poor households.

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, people in Northern Ireland are facing a devastating cost-of-living crisis.

Over a decade of austerity policies, cuts to social security benefits and low wage rises (which are effectively real term pay cuts) have left many people in poverty and continue to cause increased hardship for the working poor. While the richest households saved money during the pandemic, the poorest have fallen further into debt, with no cushion to cope with rising prices.

Working people are having to choose to eat or to heat and, with fuel and energy costs set to raise again, this will have a devastating impact on women and families. This has been exasperated by the current Cost-of-Living Crisis.

Single parents, most of whom are women, have been hit particularly badly by the cost of living crisis with a third in financial difficulty, and 11% in problem debt. To add to the ongoing crisis, working mothers in Northern Ireland also struggle to access affordable childcare.

Conference therefore calls on the National Women’s Committee to work with the NEC and with relevant organisations to campaign for:

• an increase in all benefits to keep pace with inflation;

• the abolition of the benefits cap and the two-child limit;

• increases in earnings replacement benefits including ESA, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support, Carers Allowance, Maternity Allowance, Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Sick Pay;

• an increase in Child Benefit;

• public sector pay rises that reflect inflation rates;

• a fully funded childcare strategy for Northern Ireland including affordable, accessible, high quality childcare including 30 hours of free childcare for parents and a workforce with decent pay and terms and conditions.