TWO CHILD LIMIT AND RAPE CLAUSE SIGNALS NEW LOW FOR TORY GOVERNMENT
Recent weeks have seen the ushering in of yet more Tory benefit cuts, further ensuring that those who rely on financial support due to illness or disability find it increasingly difficult to maintain a minimum standard of living. The cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for those in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) commenced at the beginning of April, leaving those affected £30 per week worse off – a cut of roughly 30%. The WRAG group is made up of those deemed too ill to physically apply for jobs. Fair game for the Tories then!
What is perhaps more appalling than the financial cut, is the pretence that incentives to work are being provided, implying that those who receive ESA WRAG are otherwise happy to sit at home and ‘cash in.’ This is a bewildering notion, given that people claiming those benefits often suffer from conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and mental illness, each of which can be wholly debilitating.
Yet for many news of ESA WRAG cuts have been overshadowed by steps taken by the UK Government to amend child tax credits rules. Earlier this month, the UK Government railroaded a policy change through Parliament without debate or parliamentary approval, culminating in a new two-child limit for people claiming child tax credits.
The Tories also mandated that women who were raped must prove their child was conceived thereby to be exempted from these rules.
Fundamentally, the Government is asking women to re-live the ordeal of a rape simply to make a benefit claim. The Tories seriously misjudged the impact of this. The reason why the majority of rapes go unreported is due to the stress and torment placed on the victim when revisiting their ordeal. This seems to have completely eluded the Tories. Shame on them!
This fiasco exposed a yawning hole in UK Government’s plans to implement the policy, given that public sector workers who will arbitrate whether a woman’s child was born of rape haven’t been trained in this, despite the changes already being implemented.
The financial aspect makes for grim reading. A family whose third child was born before midnight on 5th April could be £50,000 better off over 18 years than one whose child was born a day later. As a result, an estimated 200,000 more children are expected to be living in poverty by 2020.
The outcry against this abhorrent policy has been deafening. Religious leaders, trade unions, MPs and charities, including Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland all denounced it. Even Government Ministers acknowledge the policy’s failings.
It’s clear the UK Government has refused to listen to overwhelming opposition from groups, representing some of Scotland’s most vulnerable women. These changes are anti-women and anti-family, and will decimate household budgets for the “just about managing” families the Prime Minister was so keen to speak for on her first day in office. Ill thought out, malicious policies of this sort damage lives. We in the SNP will fight to overturn this abhorrent policy.