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Inquiry into impact of COVID-19 policy on women


Women and Equalities Committee, inquiry, government policy, COVID-19, effects of policy, women, protected characteristics, collecting evidenceWe need to understand the present and future effect on those who may already be marginalised.

The Women and Equalities Committee wants to hear about the different and disproportionate impact that the Coronavirus – and the measures being taken to tackle it – is having on people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and other organisations have expressed concerns about impacts on some people who have protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, sex, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The government is currently making extensive plans to support and protect the population, and the Committee would like to find out more about the impact that government measures – including emergency legislation – are having on people with these protected characteristics.

Have all the relevant equality issues been considered?

Are there any unforeseen consequences?

If there are problems, what could be done differently/better?

Examples which the Committee has already heard about include:

The increased risk and severity of domestic abuse when there is a requirement to stay home – and the pressure on the healthcare and education settings and specialist services which might normally identify and assess risks and provide support;

The urgent need to redeploy healthcare and social work professionals to deal with the pandemic may leave older and disabled people vulnerable in other ways;

Children with special educational needs and their families may be particularly affected by school closures;

The impact on ‘gig economy’ workers, who are more likely to be young, from a BAME (black and minority ethnic) background or have caring commitments;

An article in The Lancet, Volume 395, ISSUE 10227, pp846-848, 14 March 2020, criticised the lack of gendered response to the Covid-19 outbreak, pointing out that “Recognising the extent to which disease outbreaks affect women and men differently is a fundamental step to understanding the primary and secondary effects of a health emergency on different individuals and communities, and for creating effective, equitable policies and interventions.”;

An Ipsos Mori poll published on 14 February 2020 showed that as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, one in seven people would avoid people of Chinese origin or appearance and one in ten would avoid eating in Asian restaurants; other news reports have pointed to an increase in racially-fuelled attacks.

And Inclusion London has said that the amended duty for local authorities to provide support only when the failure to do so may breach rights under the European Convention on Human Rights “poses a serious risk to the lives of many Disabled people, especially those of us who need social care support.”

The Women and Equalities Committee is conscious that there may be many more equality impacts and is keen to hear from individuals and from organisations on these questions:

How have people have been affected by the illness or the response to it?

Have there been specific impacts on people due to them having a protected characteristic?

Are there any unforeseen consequences to measures brought in to ease the burden on frontline staff?

The government has said current measures will be reviewed in three weeks’ time, and measures in the Coronavirus Act are due to be voted on again in 6 months’ time.

In view of these two parameters:

What needs to change or improve, which could be acted on in three weeks’ time?

What needs to change or improve, which could be acted on in 6 months’ time?

The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “In these extraordinary times, it is as important as ever that the government considers how its actions to tackle the coronavirus impact differently on different communities.

“Passing emergency legislation at great speed has been essential. Now we need to understand the present and future effect on those who may already be marginalised.

“We are listening, and we need your evidence to help us to help the government consider equalities issues, to ensure that its policies and plans are as effective as possible.”

The Committee would like to receive responses by 30 April.

However, evidence submitted after that time will still be useful as the Committee will continue to review the situation and scrutinise the government.

Any evidence directly relevant to the government’s three-week review of the current measures should be provided as soon as possible.

To respond, click here.

  1. Financial Impact of Coranavirus 19 and contributing contextual factors.
    2016 Predicted full SP as a result of the number of years I had paid into NI and PAYE. I hold a copy of that dated letter.
    About this time, found out that SPA had been changed considerably. Saved as much as possible, forgoing the expensive cars, clothes, holidays and support to family in order to have saved towards retiring at sixty.
    April 2019 Left a senior position, having paid thousands in NI and PAYE during years 2017/18 and 2018/19.
    April 2019 Checked NI contributions were still accurate as I was by now used to goal posts changing without notice. Found that I was now short of NI contributions and would not be eligible for a full pension at 66 without making further NI contributions.
    April 2019 Registered as self-employed and began earning just enough money to make necessary NI contributions.
    March 16th 2019 Became unwell with C19 type symptoms so followed government’s advice and cancelled assessment due that week. Under normal circumstances, I would have continued working.
    March 23rd Lock down began and I had to turn away three further assessments.
    Awaited chancellor’s announcement for self-employed and realised I was not eligible for any financial support as:
    1. I had not made a self-employed tax return for the relevant tax year – although had paid in thousands.
    2. Ineligible for SSP or unemployment benefit due to saving towards my retirement and having over 16,000 in savings. Please bear in mind that some of this may have been needed for tax and NI except for the lock down.
    Long term financial impact may yet be felt regarding SP. Will I get the chance to make the additional NI payment needed for a full pension?
    Female 61 years – has cared for parents when ill at the same time as raising a family as a single parent so has been unable to work full time which has also impacted on provision for retirement.
    When divorcing, the change in SPA had not been known so no provision made for the change in court.
    Refused an interview for a job as the company wanted a male. This was outside the provision of the Equality Act for exceptions. This experience is typical of the financial culture, opportunities and general limitations on wages that I experienced as a woman.

  2. This virus has affected me a lot i am 65 yrs old in august I have rheumatoid artritis osteoporosis and raynauds syndrome carpental tunnel syndrome and asthma I have to have a monthly iv of tocilizumab have a very low immune system I’ve been ill for past 22 yrs i have pain for 24/7 I am very scared i dare not go out but I have to I can’t get a shopping slot from any supermarket I live with my husband who also has angina hypothyroidism and high cholesterol I have to go shopping if my husband goes out I feel scared he could come back and infect me I am scared everyday it is also having an impact on my finances I don’t get help with my rent I dare not go on universal credit in case they leave me without money I have a funny landlord who won’t let me go a day into another month if I had my pension at 60 I would manage better but now I can’t leave my children or grandchildren anything i cant contribute to my only daughter’s wedding and I can’t even go to it she lives in Australia and I can’t even pay for my own funeral it causes stress worry and it’s worry and it’s demeaning I feel I am being punished for being born when I was so this virus puts a lot more strain on me physically mentally and emotionally now this virus is here it’s a danger to my health and livelihood and my family

  3. Gayle Jessiman says:

    I’m a 64 year old woman who, following redundancy, has been working as a domestic cleaner on a self employed basis. My customers have put their cleans on hold & I have not worked or earned any money since 25 March. I don’t think I will qualify for any help under the government self employment scheme as this will be based on the business profits & I don’t make any profit I just earn a wage. I’ve applied for Universal Credit but 3 weeks later I’ve had no confirmation that I am eligible to receive anything. I feel very let down & am starting to suffer severe mental anguish. I am following government instructions/guidelines but not getting the appropriate support. I have recently been diagnosed with stable angina so probably shouldn’t be working cleaning other people’s homes anyway but as I’m still 2 years away from being eligible for State Pension I don’t see any alternative. I’ve always played by the rules, worked hard, paid taxes & not been a burden on the state or public purse but the help has not been there when I’ve needed it.

  4. edwina underwood says:

    I am 59 ..i should be looking forward to only one more year of poverty as no hope of ever working again.. my pension is now years away.. i lost my job due to my ADHD 4 years ago.. before that i was a stay home mum and life long student.. despite my education.. i have an MA , i have never had a job for more than min pay.. for the last 4 years i been letting my spare room on Air B&B as my only means of income.. My average is £100 a week.. i live in a small 2 bed house. ATM i have no income at all and because i have some savings i can not claim any benefits or any help at all.. I sold everything i had to get some savings together and because of that i can not get any help .. based on my savings my income to i get my pension would be £12 a week.. i have to pay full price for my medications and dental work.. and 3/4 council tax. (half would be fairer for single people ). i can not even use food banks due the savings.. I wish i could get my pension so i can heat my home and buy food.. to many the pension is not much , to me its a small fortune.. I/we are forgotten women..we are hungry.. We worked hard for so many rights enjoyed today and care and have cared for so many.

    Edwina Underwood

  5. M Opeldus says:

    COVID 19 is the latest in a long line of obstacles, I, as a 1950 women, have had to overcome. We were only told in November 2019 pre election, there would be no money to correct the injustice of the 1995 Pension Act on women. I personally have been living off savings I had hoped would cushion my pension. These savings have excluded me from benefits, and I have been expected to be supported completely by my husband.

    I was never informed of the 1995 Pensions Act, even though I had letters advising me of NI years, at no time did any letter mention my SPA had moved back to 66. You would think something in place for 75 years would warrant a letter if it changed. I did get a letter 2012, 34 months before retirement, I was shocked, all my financial affairs were now obsolete, the very roof over my head was in question.

    My complaint started Jun 2016, it was processed by the DWP, ICE apologised and upheld part of my complaint, I lodged my complaint 2017 with the Parliamentary Ombudsman where it remains. We have had demonstrations in London, 6,000 women descended on Parliament, not one word in the Media.

    We had a Judicial Review, the finding were released Oct 2019, this review stopped all pending complaints, we are now awaiting an Appeal, July 2020. With the Virus Locking everything down, will that go ahead?

    Money to support the Nation has been found, the employed, the self employed I would be surprised if we women still awaiting our Pension were on any list. No consideration is given to the way we live everyday, so the only financial implication COVID 19 will have is more of a drain of my savings.

    All of this equality and inequality raised by the State Pension Age led me to search the Internet to gain more of an understanding and I found the following.

    Extract from a Government Leaflet published 2002. At the moment, we award National Insurance credits to men between the ages of 60 and 65 who don’t work and don’t pay National Insurance contributions. We do this to protect their basic State Pension entitlement. We will make similar arrangements for women from 2010, when their State Pension age begins. This was never applied to women, Why.

    This practice started in Mrs Thatchers Government 1983, it continued until 2018 when SPA equalised at 65. When the 1995 Act to extend women’s working life by 5 then 6 years, men continued to have their National Insurance paid to leave the workplace at 60. This Scheme ran for 35 years and alongside the increase in women’s SP age from 2010. When I reach 60, I received no pension and no National Insurance payments Why? I lack 3 years NI, I cannot afford to buy them which is the advise I was given by the HMRC, it would take 10 years to recoup that money in a pension, yet because I am short my pension will be reduced going forward

    The longer this injustice carries on the more information is found. Where does the Inequality really lie.

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