Women who have a third child as a result of rape could soon have to prove the assault to the Department for Work and Pensions to claim child tax credits, according to campaigners.
The plans were tucked away in Wednesday’s budget in the new section that outlines intentions to restrict child benefits to two children for new parents from 2017.
It states: “the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as a result of rape or other exceptional circumstances,” prompting concerns that a woman would have to prove she were raped.
The change was initially flagged up by Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, on Twitter.
“We think the policy on limiting tax credits is appalling anyway, and tantamount to social engineering, but putting a woman who has been raped – and her child – in that position is shocking,” the Guardian reported Thewliss as saying.
Thewliss raised the point that rape is often not reported to the police and assailants are not convicted. “There are so many unanswered questions,” she said, talking of the unclear nature of the new policy.
“What happens if it becomes known in the local community that a woman is receiving tax credits for a third child? What assumptions will be made about that woman and her children? It’s a complete abuse of her privacy.”
SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford raised the issue of confirming whether a child was born of rape or not in the Commons on Thursday, Buzzfeed reported.
“Will there be a box to tick on the form? Will a criminal conviction against a perpetrator be required? We know rape is one of the most unreported and poorly prosecuted serious crimes in the UK – most surveys suggest that 85% of women who are raped just don’t report it for a whole variety of reasons.”
The topic was dismissed in Parliament by leader of the house Chris Grayling who told politicians that the policy had been “designed in a way to handle difficult cases in the most sensitive ways,” the Guardian reported.
Lisa Longstaff, campaigner at Women Against Rape, told the paper that: “Asking women to disclose very difficult information and expecting them to be able to prove it – in what is frankly a very hostile environment when the DWP is trying to take your money away – will have appalling consequences.”
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