One-hundred-and-ninety women have had to provide evidence that they were raped in order to receive benefits under a new government scheme, HM Revenue and Customs has revealed.
The two-child tax-credits policy – under which parents can only claim tax credits for their first two children – was introduced in 2017, and offers exemptions for twins, children in or at risk of entering the care system and rape victims, who have to provide “evidence” of sexual assault in order to receive the credits.
The Mirror reports that as many as 70,620 families have missed out on up to £2,780 in benefits per year as a result of the two-child limit, with 190 people from the 2,820 households claiming one of the exemptions identified as victims of rape.
MPs have spoken out against the policy, including SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has campaigned against it in the past. "The UK government must scrap the abhorrent two-child cap and rape clause now to avoid putting families and survivors of rape through more trauma,” she said.
Speaking to The Independent, Thewliss also suggested that, despite the high number of women who have been recorded as being affected by the two-child limit, she was “almost certain that many women won’t be coming forward, particularly because the policy requires that you’re not living with the father of that child”.
Despite repeated calls for a review, a government spokesperson responded with the claim that it was delivering child tax credit and universal credit ‘in the most effective, compassionate way, with the right exceptions and safeguards in place’
Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood MP called the repercussions of the policy “truly shocking”, referring to the limit as “an attack on low-income families” that “risks pushing children into poverty”.
And, last year, the Child Poverty Action Group said that “around 250,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of this measure by the end of the decade, representing a 10% increase in child poverty”.
But, despite repeated calls for a review, a government spokesperson responded with the claim that it was delivering child tax credit and universal credit “in the most effective, compassionate way, with the right exceptions and safeguards in place”.
They said: “The policy to provide support in child tax credit and universal credit for a maximum of two children ensures people on benefits have to make the same financial choices as those supporting themselves solely through work”.
Doubling down on the government’s stance, Kit Malthouse, under-secretary of state for family support, housing and child maintenance, suggested that “the world of welfare should reflect the world of work and that people on welfare should have to take the same decisions as those that are in work. That includes making decisions about the number of children that they may or may not have.”