Chancellor has no answers for economically vulnerable young women

Thursday 26 March 2020

Responding to the Chancellor’s press conference, Sophie Walker, CEO Young Women’s Trust said: 

“Thousands of vulnerable young women will have watched the Chancellor this evening and find themselves wondering yet again, when is the government going to help me? 

“Young women who have lost their jobs as a result of the crisis, were previously on zero hours contracts or extreme low pay emerge with no answer to how they will pay their bills and feed their children over the coming months. We’re calling on the government to offer workers on zero hours contracts with the same provision as the rest of the workforce – 80 percent of their average earnings over the last three years.  

“We also want to see the government bring benefits, including Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay and Personal Independence Payment in line with the National Living Wage of £322 a week.  

“These actions are part of our six point plan that we are urging the government to introduce to help young women navigate this crisis as they take on yet more unpaid work, front line key worker responsibilities and watch their income dwindle.”  

To safeguard economically vulnerable young women, Young Women’s Trust are calling on Government to: 

1. Increase protections for those most at risk of financial hardship by ensuring benefits are paid at the rate of at least the National Living Wage (£322.64) for a full-time worker for at least the duration of the crisis, and ensure this applies to all ages: 

  • Universal Credit 
  • Employment Support Allowance 
  • Personal Independence Payment 
  • Carers Allowance 
  • Statutory Sick Pay 

2. Ensure Universal Credit is accessible by all, in a timely way by: 

  • Removing the five-week wait to receive payments 
  • Overhauling administrative support so that people aren’t queuing on phones or online and those without digital access can still get support quickly 
  • Suspending sanctions 

3. Ensure support is available to the most vulnerable families by ensuring that: 

  • Those who have been employed on zero hours contracts also receive 80 percent of recent earnings, in line with government support for business and the self-employed 
  • Families receive guaranteed paid parental leave for one parent if they are unable to work due to school closures 
  • Ensuring food vouchers for those who would otherwise receive Free School Meals are at a level sufficient for them to buy the food they need 
  • Refugee and migrant women can access healthcare - end the policy of “no recourse to public funds” and suspend charges for maternity services. 

4. Guarantee protections for those who have to work. Many young women are providing essential services including healthcare, social care, schooling for key workers or in supermarkets. The availability of suitable protective measures including clothing and equipment designed for women should be guaranteed, and no young woman should be forced to work in an environment that is unsafe. 

5. Set up an emergency support fund so that frontline services can guarantee support for those experiencing domestic abuse, including economic abuse and coercive control, an increased risk during self-isolation. The Government needs to ensure that the package of financial support acknowledges the risk and ensure the financial measures announced also provide women with financial stability and independence. 

6. Publish an equalities impact assessment of the coronavirus legislation and create a formal policy advisory group to draw on expertise from those charities and organisations working directly with groups affected by the epidemic.