Recently the UK Government brought out a policy that means that Child Tax Credits are only available for the first and second child. Third or subsequent children don’t get a look in except in the case of a certain few exceptions. One of these exceptions: if the child is a result of rape.
The Department of Work and Pensions claim that this rape exemption or ‘rape clause’ will only be carried out in the most ‘compassionate’ way, but the question is, can forcing a woman to disclose rape to receive welfare ever really be compassionate? For us the answer is a flat out no.
The DWP wanted us to take part. They wanted local women’s aid and rape crisis workers to sit down with women, do some maths to work out whether the date of conception matched the date of the rape and tick a box to say as much. The idea was that we’d then tell them whether or not a woman’s experience could be trusted enough to give her £7.62 a day; enough money to put food on the table, to put towards the electricity bill, maybe to buy a pair of child’s school shoes.
Alongside Rape Crisis Scotland we made the decision that we would not collude in the UK Government’s policy by acting as third party referrers. Local Women’s Aid groups are independent charities – they had to make the tough decision about whether or not to work with the DWP on this issue – but as far as we know there are still no confirmed third party referrers in Scotland.
The thing is, it isn’t just the rape clause – as horrific as that is – that is the problem here. We strongly believe that the whole Family Cap has to go. Any policy that actively and knowingly pushes women and children into poverty has no place in our society, and it is not something that we can support.
In June the High Court ruled that the Tory welfare cap is unlawful and illegally discriminates against lone parents with young children. We’d hoped this decision in itself would pressure the Government to repeal the policy, but even though the policy was described as “real misery […] being caused to no good purpose”, the UK Government plan to appeal the ruling.
In May we wrote to Damien Hinds at the UK Government with 10 urgent questions about the implementation of the Rape Clause; we’ve still not heard back.
In May we received overwhelming support in standing against and refusing to collude with the rape clause. Our opposition and resistance to this policy is not going anywhere, nor – we suspect – is that of the Scottish public, poverty organisations, children’s organisations and our sister organisations working to end violence against women and children. Watch this space.
Photography: Jamie Donoghue