The Government Equalities Office is to shift its focus to helping women who are economically inactive or are in low-paid or low-skilled jobs achieve a better economic outcome.
Penny Mordaunt, minister for women and equalities, will today announce a drive to better support women who are “trapped into limiting their hours or income”; are economically inactive because of caring responsibilities; or are in lower paid roles.
It will make a £600,000 fund available to help vulnerable women return to work, especially those who have left the workplace to care for others.
Around 1.8 million women are economically inactive because of caring responsibilities – more than eight times the number of men in the same position.
Organisations across England will be able to bid for grants to help employ more women who have experienced issues like mental health problems, domestic abuse or homelessness. Employers will be able to spend this money on training, refreshing skills and offering work placements.
Part of this will be £100,000 to support women who face multiple barriers to employment, such as those who have never worked and have limited English language skills. This part of the fund will be targeted at women in Blackburn, Bradford, Peterborough and Waltham Forest in particular.
Announcing the fund at the Bright Blue Women in Work Conference today, Mordaunt is expected to say: “It will be our mission to ensure that every woman in the UK has as much freedom, choice, capacity, resilience, support and protection, to do whatever she wants to do.
“To do that we need to broaden out the work of the Government Equalities Office to focus on women at every stage of their lives.”
She will say that while the government has helped achieve “significant” progress in narrowing the gender pay gap and getting more women on the boards of top companies, low-paid and low-skilled women are often left out of the conversation around equality.
For example, women are disproportionately more likely than men to work in customer service, cleaning or caring roles.
Mordaunt is also expected to highlight that nine in 10 potential returners to work are women – nearly a third of whom have GCSEs as their highest qualification. Sixteen per cent do not have any qualifications at all.