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The impact of reduced public services spending on vulnerable groups-review of UK and international evidence.

McQuaid, Ronald W; Egdell, Valerie; Hollywood, Emma


Ronald W McQuaid

Valerie Egdell

Emma Hollywood


This evidence review was commissioned by the Scottish Government and undertaken by the Employment Research Institute, Edinburgh Napier University.

The overall aim is to review and summarise UK and international evidence on the impact of reduced spending on equalities groups: people with a disability; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT); gender; ethnicity; religion; and age. Emphasis is given to evidence on what has happened in the past, although note is made of estimates of what might happen due to reduced spending in the future.

Specifically this report examines 3 potential effects of spending cuts:

• Job losses in the public sector
• Access to the types of public services that are funded by the Scottish Government (which may have impacts on service provision and on contractors in the private or third sectors)
• Welfare and tax issues that are reserved to the UK government (and hence are of less likely to be of interest to the Scottish Government).

As well as addressing cuts in the public sector this report also considers the effect on the Third sector. These organisations are sometimes heavily funded by the public sector and have increasingly been responsible for public service provision.

The conclusions of the report were:
This report highlights that equalities groups will be especially vulnerable to public spending cuts as they are well represented in the public sector workforce and are also significant users of public services. It draws attention to a series of issues:

• There is only limited concrete evidence on the impact of public spending cuts on equalities groups.

• Individuals can fall into multiple equalities groups, therefore exacerbating their vulnerability to cuts in public services. Additionally cuts in one area can impact on other equalities groups.

• The large variations within equalities groups should be explicitly considered as certain sub-groups may be much more affected than others (e.g. mothers compared to single women, or certain ethnic groups compared to others etc.).

• Certain individuals will be especially vulnerable to any cuts as both public sector employees and public service users.

• There is lack of official data regarding certain equalities groups and therefore the effects of public spending cuts may be less ‘visible’. This highlights the need for better monitoring of public sector cuts on less well documented equality groups

• The effects of public spending cuts will be felt by those working in and using services delivered by Third sector organisations. The effects of reduced public spending will cross sectoral boundaries.

An important issue is the balance between capital and revenue expenditure. The UK government proposals suggest considerably greater cuts in capital than revenue expenditure, which is likely to affect particular sectors, such as construction. Earlier ERI identified that in various parts of the UK the recession had particularly affected young males - partly due to the rapid decline in constriction and manufacturing jobs (see ERI project Employment Inequalities in the Economic Downturn). Hence a disproportionate cut in capital expenditure by the government may lead to a relatively high impact on the employment of young males.

Report Type Project Report
Publication Date 2010-07
Deposit Date Apr 21, 2011
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Reduced spending; equalities groups; disability; gender; ethnicity; LGBT; religion; age; job losses; unemployment; public sector; welfare provision; tax;
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