Women and Social Inclusion | Social Exclusion

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Oxfam has worked on poverty and social exclusion in the UK since the mid-1990s, with gender as a key element in its approach. GenderWorks is a two-year project funded by the European Commission across three European Union (EU) countries (the UK, Italy and Austria). An important output of the project is analysis of social inclusion policies in terms of their ability to understand the needs, and assess the assets, of women living in poverty, and to tackle the barriers they face in trying to escape it. A crucial lesson is that learning about gender differences in the causes and consequences of poverty and social exclusion is key to successful service delivery and anti-poverty work.
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   G e n d e r W o r ks Gender and Social Inclusion  O x fam GB, Oc tober 2009  GenderWorks2 Acknowledgments Thank you to Jan Flaherty for her energy and insights. Thanks also to Sandy Ruxton, Colette Fagan and Claire Annesley, who supplied additional information and perspectives. Sue Smith from Oxfam was unfailingly supportive and helpful. The responsibility for any errors or omissions of course remains mine.Fran Bennett, July 2009 GenderWorks is a two-year project (2007-09), funded by the European Commission under PROGRESS, to investigate women’s experiences of poverty and social exclusion in Europe, and policy processes to improve their lives. Oxfam is the lead agency, with partner organisations in Italy and Austria. Gender and Social Inclusion Fran Bennett, October 2009  Gender and Social Inclusion 3 Contents Executive summary and recommendations 41. Introduction and background 82. UK social inclusion strategy 93. Gender analysis of UK social inclusion strategy to date 104. Overview and principles of analysis 125. Inclusive employment: employment targets and welfare reform 136. Inclusive employment: ‘making work pay’, sustainability, progression and productivity 167. Adequate income: tackling child poverty and improving child wellbeing 198. Adequate income: economic independence for women and men 219. Conclusions 2210. Recommendations 23Bibliography 25  GenderWorks4GenderWorks  Executive Summary and recommendations 1. Introduction and background Oxfam has worked on poverty and social exclusion in the UK since the mid-1990s, with gender as a key element in its approach. GenderWorks is a two-year project funded by the European Commission across three European Union (EU) countries (the UK, Italy and Austria). An important output of the project is analysis of social inclusion policies in terms of their ability to understand the needs, and assess the assets, of women living in poverty, and to tackle the barriers they face in trying to escape it. A crucial lesson is that learning about gender differences in the causes and consequences of poverty and social exclusion is key to successful service delivery and anti-poverty work. The aims of this report are: ã to assess how far UK government strategies have helped women to achieve social inclusion; and ã to make proposals to improve the effectiveness of future strategies, in terms of both their own aims and their ability to achieve gender equality in its own right.This includes extrapolating from the UK’s experiences in the policy areas of (inclusive) employment and (adequate) income. Lessons are drawn out for future policies to tackle women’s poverty and social exclusion in the UK and across the EU. 2. UK social inclusion strategy The core strategy analysed in this report is the UK’s National Action Plan on Social Inclusion (NAP), now incorporated into the National Strategy Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion (NSRSPSI) and produced at regular intervals by the UK as an EU member state. The latest report covers 2008-10. The NAP forms part of the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), which encourages mutual learning across the EU. Equality between women and men is one of the overarching objectives of the social OMC. The latest NAP reports on the UK Government’s actions to tackle poverty and social exclusion. Its goals are: increasing labour market participation; tackling child poverty; improving access to quality services; and tackling inequality (via the various equalities strands). The main references to gender are in this last section, though an Annex also sets out the Minister for Women’s priorities, including reducing the gender pay gap. Underpinning the NAP are more detailed policies and programmes on poverty, social exclusion and gender equality, which we include in our analysis. 3. Gender analysis of UK social inclusion strategy to date Analysis of policies by gender is possible at different levels: the EU, the UK Government, and others including NGOs such as Oxfam. At EU level, the Roadmap for Equality Between Women and Men   2006-2010 promotes equal economic independence for women and men, and the reconciliation of private and professional life. It sees gender equality as being in the EU’s self-interest, as well as being an aim in its own right. European Commission guidance urges member states to incorporate gender awareness in their social inclusion strategies. A network of gender experts (http://eggsi.irs-online.it) analyses the NAPs with this in mind. A recent overview of EU member states’ NAPs suggested that poverty was disproportionately ‘feminised’ but this was often not recognised. The UK gender expert believes gender analysis was not applied consistently in its NAP.In UK policy, gender is often implicit rather than explicit; and poverty is measured on a household basis, obscuring women’s experiences. Oxfam noted that the section on gender in the most recent NAP was more a statement of general policy on gender inequalities than a gender analysis and action plan related to poverty and social exclusion.Oxfam’s analysis is based on its experience working with women and men living on low incomes and in disadvantaged communities. Over recent years, it has explored various issues relevant to the focus of this report – employment and income. Using the ‘sustainable livelihoods approach’, it has also investigated the assets which people have, as well as the barriers they face, which Oxfam believes is key to achieving a holistic understanding. 4. Overview and principles of analysis This analysis focuses on inclusive employment and adequate income as routes to social inclusion, and analyses the NAP and underpinning employment and social security policies from a gender perspective with this in mind. It aims to investigate which policies help or hinder women in escaping poverty and social exclusion; and to demonstrate how a gender-sensitive strategy will be more likely to deliver not only greater gender equality, but also the Government’s other key aims and objectives. The analysis is grounded in Oxfam’s rights-based approach, and its belief in the right to participation and ‘voice’. This includes the importance of listening to women living in poverty themselves, in terms of what they say is important to them. The report recognises that women are affected both by their gender and their socio-economic position, but that they also
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