“Getting off Lightly or Feeling the Pinch?”

Older women in Coventry hit hard by cuts – 74% rise in unemployment

The health of older women in Coventry is being threatened by the combined impact of cuts to health, social care, public transport, welfare benefits and voluntary and advice services according to a new report published today, Thursday 19 July 2012,by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices.

The report, Getting off lightly or feeling the pinch? A human rights and equality impact assessment of the public spending cuts on older women in Coventry, highlights a series of cuts in different areas that are affecting older women in Coventry.  

Unemployment among women over 50 in Coventry has increased by 74% since 2008

. Between October 2010 and June 2011 924 public sector jobs were lost in Coventry. This risks increased poverty, stress and anxiety and social isolation all of which are linked to health problems 

University Hospital in Walsgrave and Rugby St Cross face having to make £28 million of cuts and George Eliot Hospital has had to save £10 million.

Cuts in health spending have resulted in increased cancellation of hospital appointments, longer waits for appointments, early discharge from hospital and difficulty getting to see a GP. This increases the risk of women suffering longer waits for treatment, or not getting the treatment they need;Spending on social care for adults in Coventry fell by 2.7% between 2010 and 2011. A further £1.5million of savings are expected to be found by 2013

. Cuts in social care spending have resulted in increased charges for care, staff cuts, a reduction in training and a reduction in support for carers. This risks the mental and physical health of older women needing social care and women carers;Centro, which is responsible for public transport in Coventry had its budget cut by 10% in 2011/12 and 8.4% in 2012/13

. Cuts to transport spending has resulted in cuts to bus services making it harder to get to hospital, go shopping or visit friends and family. This risks people not accessing vital health services or suffering mental health problems because of loneliness and isolation.;Changes to tax and benefits will cost women in Coventry over £30 million compared to £12 million for men

. One in five women pensioners are currently living in poverty and many more are struggling to cope with the cost of food and fuel which have risen far faster than pensions. There is a strong link between poverty and ill health.The report concludes that when these cuts are taken together they risk a devastating impact on the health and wellbeing of some groups of older women in Coventry.

 Mary-Ann Stephenson report co-author and Co-ordinator of Coventry Women’s Voices said:

Older women are approaching Age UK Coventry for a referral to the food bank in increasing numbers, older women are waiting longer for hospital appointments, older women are taking on more unpaid caring work and unemployment among older women has increased dramatically. Far from getting off lightly older women are finding that the spending cuts are bad for their health.

Report co-author, Dr James Harrison of the University of Warwick’s Centre for Human Rights in Practice said:

‘The combined impact of cuts to benefits and services forms a serious risk to the health of many of the poorest and most vulnerable older women. Public authorities both nationally and here in Coventry have legal obligations under the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act to promote equality and protect human rights. They need to take these obligations very seriously when making decisions about budget cuts.’

Women interviewed for the report said:

‘I had surgery. As soon as it was finished they said you can go home. There was no after care. I have lost my husband. I could not even move from one room to the other. I could not do anything but I had to go home… but there was no one to look after me’

‘I had a heart attack. My husband died of a heart attack. I was feeling so stressed and worried because there was no one. I was discharged from hospital. No one was home. I was going through bereavement, loneliness, the loss of him. I didn’t get any help. It is awful to go through this.’

‘The bus cuts will affect a lot of us old aged pensioners. In one area there are two services an hour and they are cutting those. And what about people who are carrying shopping. You might be able to manage the bus, or even the walk to the new stop, but what if you can’t walk with your shopping?’

‘It’s everything, costs of heating. I see on the news the costs are going up and I worry because my pension does not go up that much.’

‘I have go to hospital regularly….I could spend £12 a month on parking. I am really frightened about the cuts to disability benefits’

‘This group has been an outlet for so many women who have been coming for years. If it comes to an end they have no where to go and they are alone. Their husbands have died. Their children are away, they live alone. Without this group they have no one at home.’

This report follows a previous report, Unravelling Equality: a human rights and equality impact assessment of the spending cuts on women in Coventry published in 2011. For more information about this report see: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/chrp/projectss/humanrightsimpactassessments/cwv/

About The Centre for Human Rights in Practice

The Centre for Human Rights in Practice undertakes a wide variety of research, capacity building and project work aimed at promoting human rights locally, nationally and globally.

A full copy of the report is available at:http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/chrp/projectss/humanrightsimpactassessments/cwv/report/

For more information contact:

Mary-Ann Stephenson 07957 338582 or maryann@maryannstephenson.co.uk

James Harrison 07961839752 or J.Harrison.3@warwick.ac.uk

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