Scrap the rape clause
The new government regulations requiring women to prove they have been raped in order to claim child tax credits for more than two children – the so-called “rape exemption” – is among diverse regulations that came into force last week.
If this and the other exemptions do not apply, a family will only be able to claim tax credit for up to two children.
The four circumstances in which families can claim tax credits for a third or subsequent child are: instances of multiple births after the first child; children formally looked after by relatives under “kinship caring” arrangements; adopted children; and children born as a result of rape.
And for the “rape exemption” to apply, women have to disclose to third parties that they have been raped and leave their home if they have been sharing with their rapist.
A new 8-page form has been published by the HMRC and Department for Work and Pensions to administer the introduction of the “rape clause” into the tax credits system.
The form requires women to formally declare the “non-consensual conception” of their child and that they are not living with the other parent of the child.
It also requires the woman to provide a supporting declaration from a third party professional, such as a doctor or social worker.
The Guardian reported that Policy in Practice found that more than 600,000 families – championed as the “just about managing” households, which the prime minister vowed to protect on her first day in government – would be hit by the child welfare cuts, and an expected 8,000 third or additional children are expected to miss out on support of up to £2,780 a year in April, a figure that could climb to 104,000 over the next 12 months.
And the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), whose own estimates predict the policy will put an extra 200,000 children into poverty by 2020, said it would damage children’s life chances.
Alison Garnham, CPAG’s chief executive, said: “This is a particularly pernicious cut because it suggests some children matter more than others.
“It’s also illogical because no parent has a crystal ball. Families that can comfortably support a third child today could struggle tomorrow and have to claim universal credit because, sadly, health, jobs and relationships can fail.”
These new rules were only laid before Parliament on 15 March 2017. They have not been subjected to any scrutiny.
Given that only 10 per cent of rapes are committed by strangers, and the vast majority are committed by a man known to the woman concerned – or even in a relationship with the woman concerned – it is likely to be the case that a significant number of victims may still be living in the same household as their rapist, and have nowhere to go.
Forcing women to disclose that they have been raped will be highly distressing, and amounts to victimising these women all over again.
Most who have not already done so, do not want to talk about the rape for fear of being disbelieved or because of possibly unbearable social or cultural stigma.
To say nothing of how the person hearing the story of another person’s rape – or stories, if this is someone’s full-time job – will feel and suffer.
And where there is no rape but is a third child, fourth or seventh child, these are harsh rules that would also affect children in families where, for example, a parent unexpectedly stops working through disability – they would still only be able to claim child tax credit for the first two children even if they have worked for many years.
And, the Guardian reported, charities have warned that women in Northern Ireland who apply for the benefit will be subject to laws requiring citizens to disclose serious crimes. So a woman who has not previously alerted the police to an assault could be at risk of a criminal investigation if she then informs officials of it through her tax credit application.
Then, the Guardian pointed out, if the identity of an attacker becomes apparent or is revealed, the official assessing the case would also be committing a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence if they did not report to the authorities that a crime had taken place.
And Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which often result in women travelling to other parts of the UK to pay for private terminations, also mean the two-child policy would doubly penalise poor women, who could afford neither to abort a third child born through rape nor to lose tax credits.
Please contact your MP and ask them to support scrapping this sickening ‘reform’.