No woman should have to prove they were raped to claim child benefit. What is this madness?
No woman should have to prove she was raped to be able to claim child tax credits. It’s a dramatic statement, and it’s one that has raised many questions – so perhaps it’s best to go back to the start.
Hidden away on page 88 of then Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget in July 2015 was a small, almost innocuous sentence, which related to the Government’s plan to restrict the child element of tax credits and Universal Credit – child benefit, essentially – to the first two children.
“The Department of Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as a result of rape, or other exceptional circumstances”.
I read the sentence again. I re-read it. I showed it to the colleague sitting next to me. What did this actually mean? How would DWP and HMRC prove that a child was borne of rape?
The more I thought about this, the more furious I became. Rape is a very serious crime, but yet one of the most under-reported and under-convicted offences there is. It exists in abusive relationships, it exists in marriage. For many women, is traumatic beyond description, and it is something they feel is shameful.
How vile that the Government would consider putting a woman, who may already feel extremely vulnerable, in the position where she had to confess to an official that her child had been born as a result of rape. How stigmatising, for that woman, for that child and for the family. Piling humiliation on top of pain is not the essence of “protection”.