The devil is always in the detail of any budget. But in Osborne’s most recent statement, the government has stooped to a place so low it is almost unbelievable.
A couple of SNP MPs spotted a clause, buried deep in the small print of the budget, that would essentially mean that women who could prove to DWP officials that they were raped would be exempt from the planned limit on child tax credits to the first two children. In other words, George Osborne plans to introduce a rape test on benefits (sign the petition against this here).
Trying to control any family by incentivising two child families – and punishing families who have triplets, twins on the second pregnancy and those of certain religious beliefs – is deeply worrying in itself.
But asking women to prove to civil servants (or, more likely a heartless outsourced ATOS-style contractor) they had been raped in order to receive benefits opens up a whole can of worms.
It is well recognised that the vast majority of women subjected to rape are unlikely ever to come forward and report to the authorities what has happened to them. Under-reporting of rape has been running at 80%-90% for years. Does the chancellor seriously think that women, who find the prospect of reporting a rape to the police so horrendous that they would rather remain silent, will come forward and disclose it to the DWP? That proposition only needs to be stated to be seen to be absurd; and the government’s distorted thinking does not end there.
Are women really expected to identify their third-born as conceived during rape to avoid losing their tax credits: something most, if not all, would find wholly anathema?
Starmer has called for scrutiny of this clause as the budget goes through Parliament. But the horrendous nature of this proposal demands more immediate action – that’s why I set up this petition calling for plans for a rape test to be abandoned and a Parliamentary debate on the subject. Please consider signing it.