WE call time on the Government’s sustained attack on women and families
Published 6 April 2017
The new tax year, which begins today, will bring hardship for women and children across the UK said the Women’s Equality Party, as restrictions to child benefit payments come into force. The Child Tax Credit is being brought under the Universal Credit system, already partially rolled out, with payments now limited to the first two children in a family.
“The Women’s Equality Party is appalled by the stealth imposition of these new rules, using a form of legislation that does not require parliamentary approval,” said party leader Sophie Walker. “These draconian cuts will damage thousands of children’s life chances – according to the Child Poverty Action Group, they will push 200,000 children into hardship. For a child to be poor just because they live in a bigger family is an injustice.”
“Today’s changes to the Child Tax Credit prove that the austerity agenda is alive and well. Families have had their housing allowance cut, benefits capped and bedrooms taxed. This is the final straw for women, single parents and disabled people who are already struggling to make ends meet in the face of sustained attacks on their income.”
She called on Theresa May to commit to universal, affordable childcare, a truly shared system of parental leave, and more robust measures to eliminate violence against women and girls, as well as protected funding to ensure those fleeing violence are safe.
“The government is punishing families with more than two children, knowing full well that this will affect the poorest families first. We cannot hope to eradicate child poverty if our tax and benefit system places a premium on the 2.0 family,” Walker said.
She went on to comment on the controversial ‘rape clause’ that means women who have a third child through rape may apply for a special exemption. “This is unenforceable, ill-thought-through, and very wrong,” said Walker. “Every month, we are confronted with appalling conviction rates for rape cases – the majority of which never make it to court – which stand as clear evidence of how difficult it is to ‘prove’ rape. That a rape survivor should be put through this ordeal in order to avoid potential poverty is unthinkable.”
To claim the exemption requires assessment by a ‘professional third party’, which could be a health worker, social worker, police officer or rape charity professional. “There is a disturbing lack of detail on how this clause will be enforced,” said Walker.
She continued: “These changes to the Universal Credit scheme will have far-reaching consequences for women – not only those affected by the rape clause. Cutting benefits, which provide often vital support to those most in need, will impact on women’s quality of life as well as, in some cases, their safety. WE are also deeply concerned by the threat to women’s financial independence under the new rules, which will require all payments to a household to go into a single account – previously, different benefits could be paid separately to individual accounts. The risk of economic abuse is much greater under the new system.
“The Women’s Equality Party will work across party lines and with specialist agencies to roll back these unfair legislative changes which threaten such harm for women and children across the UK.”