We’re all aware of the extreme welfare cuts that were announced in the Government’s most recent Budget. One of the most controversial is the slashing of tax credits. From April 2017 tax credits will be limited to a family’s first two children, meaning a potential loss of up to £2,780 per subsequent child.
However there’s one exception — one you may not have heard about because, funnily enough, it’s not something the Government wants to shout about.
If the third child (or any subsequent children) is conceived as a result of rape the mother may still claim tax credits for that child.
Yes, you might want to think about that one for a while. Take your time.
Putting the wider, thorny, complex issue of child poverty — and how it is tackled (or not) by the Government — aside, who has the right to decide who grows up poor and who doesn’t? Should families who choose to have a third child be deemed to have made an informed choice to be poorer?
Laurie Penny summed it up perfectly in the NewStatesman: “This is not about fairness, nor even about saving money. It is about sin. It is about punishment for sin, and specifically the twin working-class sins of poverty and fertility.”
Then there’s the misogynistic aspect of the welfare cuts. Because more women give up work or work part-time in order to care for children than men do, women are the ones who need benefits the most. “Women battered by a patriarchal system that does not consider child-rearing and domestic tasks “real work” will need support to raise those children,” said Penny.
And the cherry on the top: the fact that a woman who has conceived children through rape has to go through the agony of persuading a welfare officer that she is telling the truth. In reality how is that ever going to happen, when surveys consistently tell us that around 80 percent of rape victims don’t report the crime. Almost 30 percent of them don’t tell a single person. And of the cases that are reported only 18 percent result in a charge or caution. If a woman can’t attend an appointment at her Job Centre with a copy of the results of her post-rape medical examination, and legal papers confirming a guilty verdict of rape, is she really going to be awarded tax credits for a child conceived this way?
Do we as a society really expect women to reveal a rape in order to hold onto their tax credits?
What about women who are trapped in abusive relationships, who fall pregnant with a third child after being raped by their partners? Or those who don’t want to have more children but have no say in the matter due to the controlling nature of an abusive partner (be that physical or some other form of abuse)?
Of course children conceived through rape should receive support. But shouldn’t all children?