County Durham Community Foundation has provided The Women and Equalities Committee with evidence that women continue to bear the brunt of the cost of living crisis.

The Committee, which holds the government to account, has sought responses from authoritative sources to questions including: “How are rising food, energy, housing, and other costs affecting women compared to men? What are the challenges for women.”

Our response is based on worrying findings in our recent report co-authored with Health Equity North titled County Durham and Tees Valley: Health, Wealth and (Unequal) Opportunities to Thrive.

This report highlights significant gender disparities exacerbated by economic challenges, finding that women are more likely to be affected by rising food, energy, and housing costs than men.

Michelle Cooper, our Chief Executive said: “We wanted to submit a response to the committee to further highlight our work and make an impact on future policy making decisions.”

The response highlights the disproportionate effects of escalating food, energy, and housing costs on women. As those primarily responsible for household food shopping and preparation, women bear the brunt of the 8% increase in food prices since 2012. Additionally, the rise in energy costs, with electricity up by 35% and gas by 41% since 2010, places a heavier burden on women, many of whom spend more time at home due to caregiving duties.

Our report shows that women in County Durham and Tees Valley are disproportionately affected by rising costs of living. We need to address these disparities urgently to ensure that women have equal opportunities to thrive.

The following statistics from the report illustrate the impact of rising costs on women:

  • Women are 1.5 times more likely than men to live in poverty.
  • 1 in 4 women in County Durham and Tees Valley live in poverty.
  • Women are more likely than men to work part-time or in low-paid jobs.
  • Women are more likely than men to be affected by rising food, energy, and housing costs.

To address these challenges, we need targeted policies, such as addressing the gender pay gap, offering affordable housing, and bolstering social support, we need to link benefits to inflation, halt Universal Credit waiting periods, sanctions, and deductions, and expand free school meal programmes.

Michelle Cooper talks to BBC Radio Tees about how the rising cost of living is impacting women