The most disgraceful Government form ever #rapeclause

There are many occasions at the moment when the UK Government makes me ashamed to be British. Two examples this week show what Tim Farron described on Question Time the other night as “Cruel Britannia.”

The first is the removal of Personal Independence Payments from people suffering serious psychological distress. Matt described powerfully here what that would mean for him.

When outdoors I can become so distressed by events and this can trigger an episode of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Symptoms include flash backs to an event that has caused much psychological harm and distress, visual hallucinations of the event that makes me feel that I am in another time and place, reliving the event as though it is really happening at that moment, becoming completely unaware of immediate surroundings. Coming out of one of these episodes is extremely distressing, confusing and disorientating and leaves me full of fear. My entire thought process is filled only with getting home and getting safe. I am no longer capable of following the route because my brain and thought process will not quieten down enough to think. I can only liken it to a petrified dog that will run off at full speed ahead, unaware of dangers / hazards / roads, petrified of people. All you can think of is getting home to the safety of your bed and cowering. The situation has caused me to put myself and others in danger whilst in this panicked state of mind. There are many things that can act as a trigger for me, It might be the way someone looks reminds me of person from my past, It can be a certain smell that acts as a trigger, it might be something I hear. I spend most of my life avoiding triggers. These are obviously easier to control within the safety of my own home, but impossible when I am outdoors.

The second example is the removal of benefits to cover third or subsequent children. In itself this is utterly wrong in principle. Benefit should be payable according to need. Children are suffering now because their families are now significantly worse off. The idea that large families should be penalised is so wrong. Are we really saying that if someone finds themselves as a single parent and they have four children, that the state should only provide help with two of them? What are the others supposed to do? It brings back the sort of attitude from Victorian times when the state would provide a parent with help with child support for a couple of weeks before taking the children off the parent and putting them in the workhouse. The idea that the poor are in some way culpable and should be punished is not something any liberal should accept. 

The Government has, however, decided that tax credits and benefits can be paid out if the mother was raped. In order to claim these, she has to fill out an 8 page form and get it countersigned by a professional. How degrading and humiliating is that? And what must that be like for the family as a whole? No woman should ever have to prove rape to the satisfaction of a civil servant in order to be able to feed her children.

What gets me is that someone has had to sit at a desk and draw up this form. It’s had to be approved by various people and nobody has actually done the decent thing and pulled it. Has anyone actually put themselves in the position of someone who has to sit down and complete it – and go and then disclose things, perhaps for the first time, to someone who can countersign it?  Has anyone thought of the distress that entails?

It’s little wonder that so many women’s charities have said that they refuse to enable this.

The answer is simply to rescind the appalling two child cap.  If you are one of a family of three or more, or if you have three or more children, imagine what could or might happen if you suddenly found yourself without the means to support them. Even if benefits were claimable for all of them, the amount you would get is nowhere near sufficient. There is no justification for the increase in poverty, restriction of life chances and misery that it will cause.

All credit has to go to SNP MP Alison Thewliss who has led the campaign against this, with support from Liberal Democrats, Labour and Greens. She spent months trying to pin down ministers on the practical implementation of this policy. She has made sure that it’s been an issue that the media takes seriously. Let’s hope that the public, now that they can see the reality of the rape clause, will now demand its repeal.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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19 Comments

  • Diane Reddell 9th Apr '17 - 1:25pm

    Firstly, the civil service is there to action any legislation changes impartially and with sensitivity for vulnerable customers. The second, after discussing the issue with friends we feel this policy is unfair but also flawed. Whilst I respect the policy is there to empower people to be responsible for their lifestyle choices and finances, it also puts children into poverty. The current set up also removes the money from housing benefit. In reality housing benefit should be paid first to ensure people have housing security. The current policy does not also consider multiple births. Thirdly, we need a better variety of 24 hour cost effective child care options and better flexibility on times and location of where employees can perform their job role. This applies for all citizens as to be healthy we need a good work-life balance.

  • I’m against the cap, although I can understand how some people, especially parents who decided to stop after two children, might think it is unfair that they are supporting people who were ‘less sensible’. However, I imagine few would support the way this has been implemented. There are people who already decided to have a larger family, usually with reasonable plans in place to support them, who found that their circumstances changed, and the few that planned to rely on the state are not in a position to jettison one or more of their children now.

    The rape clause aspect is just horrendous. Are there people in government who genuinely believe that women will be pretending they were raped, just to get extra benefits? More to the point, do they think they’ll be doing it in sufficient numbers to bring the country to its knees? It’s far more likely that women who have kept a child after rape would not want to have this recorded, so as to avoid stigma for themselves and their child.

    I just can’t imagine any voters were urging their MPs to bring in that legislation.

  • If the party is going to oppose all tory spending cuts, when will it publish a realistic account of how it intends to fund ever increasing demand in, social care, the NHS, housing, education, infrastructure, policing and defence to name a few? Granted Tim has suggested a 1p increase in income tax for the NHS, a sticking plaster at best. Given that to the LibDems the 0.7% foreign aid budget, a lot of which is dreadfully wasted, is sacracanct, where are you going to find all the money from? whilst also reducing debt and deficit.
    There was an interesting thread a few days ago about the need for the LibDems to publish some ideas re economic policy, I agree, otherwise you risk becoming a party of ‘nice’ people who wish only the best for everyone but lack the ability to make difficult choices and hence rarely gain any real power or influence.
    Despite what Tim said on Question Time last week the idea of a party of the bleeding heart is not partocularly attractive., although it does remind me Clair Short ‘ My heart bleeds for (X) but we can’t intervene ‘, as my then history teacher used to say – nothing that bleeds that much should live.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Apr '17 - 2:04pm

    I agree with Caron !

    We as a society are debased when we lose our sense of basic equality .
    We as a country are diminished when we lose our traditional sense of decency.

    Herein is described how both are being lost

  • sacrosanct even.

  • I don’t necessarily dis agree with Caron on this point, or some oh her others, and it’s cool to be the guardian of morality, but the question stands( typos and all). With the exception of Trident replacement, which if it were to be cut would require a large percenatge of the saving to be spent on defence, I have yet to see or hear of any significant are of goivernment spending where the LibDems are advocating a reduction in spending, in fact the reverse tends to be true, more housing, more for social care, more for education, more investment in green tech, so again I would ask given that debt is still increasing, from where do you intend to raise the cash?

  • Mark Seaman 9th Apr '17 - 3:02pm

    Children born before 06/04/2017 are not affected by the two child limit, and there is allowance for multiple births. Having read the how the changes will work it all seems rather sensible. The thing to be angry about is the repeated below inflation increases in benefits which will hurt people a lot, yet save inconsequential sums of money.

  • Mark Seaman 9th Apr '17 - 3:05pm

    I must clarify that I am only talking about the Child element in tax credits, not the Pip changes.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Apr '17 - 3:11pm

    Get rid of the proof of rape requirement (especially considering conviction rates are so low). Also, maybe we could change it so benefits are removed after the fourth, rather than second child. However I understand the arguments that the children shouldn’t be punished, so we need to be very careful about how it would be implemented. We could stick with the two child rule if there was a way to ensure the children would still be OK.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 9th Apr '17 - 3:26pm

    @Eddie Sammon, why any arbitrary number? 2, 4, 28, 17? Maybe, if we go down that road it will encourage the tories just to scrap child benefit altogether.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Apr '17 - 3:53pm

    Hi Graham, we don’t need an arbitrary number, just a way to end the perception that people were having a great time on benefits.

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Apr '17 - 5:26pm

    Eddie – suggest you watch “I Daniel Blake”

  • I don’t see how anyone with any liberal instincts can support this. It directly punishes those who are not responsible for the circumstances leading to the sanction i.e. the children. You may not approve of the parent’s lifestyle choices, but that cannot ever justify passing an 18+ year sentence of (increased) poverty onto a child.

    There is already far too much inequality, and far too little social mobility, without adding more.

  • “The first is the removal of Personal Independence Payments from people suffering serious psychological distress.”

    Those suffering serious psychological distress should still be able to be awarded the mobility component for PIP under their condition. The shame is that anyone suffering with very real but slightly less serious psychological distress (according to the random assessor who may or may not have a good understanding of mental health) will be likely to lose out completely.

    “If the party is going to oppose all tory spending cuts, when will it publish a realistic account of how it intends to fund ever increasing demand…”

    I believe I am correct in saying that a single parent earning £50,001 is worse off under child benefit rules than a household where both parents earn £49,999 each. Not all cuts that can be made to the benefit system are going to be wrong but it does seem the Tory government swing the axe at the most vulnerable first and think second.

    “We could stick with the two child rule if there was a way to ensure the children would still be OK.”

    Can you imagine a situation in the future, especially with divorce rates as high as they are, where single parent of two children marries single parent of two children? Should they really be considering whether they can provide for their family with the hit to their benefits when deciding to get together or not? But, equally, is it right that under the current system an individual could be fairly well off just for having four or five children?

  • How far are these welfare reforms going to go? Just how much crueller can this government become.

    Are we going to see new rules about Conjoined twins that can not be medically separated should only count as 1 person?

    These forms to exempt victims of rape are horrific, I believe a lot of women would chose not to fill them in and claim through fear of the child ever discovering that they were conceived through an act of rape.
    A woman who has decided to go through with a pregnancy after being subjected to such a horrific ordeal has already decided to put the child’s needs “albeit unborn at that point above her own, I can hardly believe the mother would then chose to tell or risk the child finding out at a later date that he / she was conceived through rape.

    And what about Subject Access Requests or Similar, would this information being exempt? what if a child on becoming an adult at a later date did an access request on their data held by the government and this bomb shell turns up?

    This is horrendous everything about it is just wrong and inhumane

  • Martin Land 9th Apr '17 - 9:33pm

    Mmmm. The benefits conundrum is a difficult one for liberals. Rules about the number of children seem abhorrent. Curiously though I’ve found over the years that canvassing has made me nervous about drawing lines in the sand. For every unfair or discriminatory rule or decision I’ve come across I’ve also found a blatant exploitation of society, of our generosity.
    It is easy to attack governments for such rules, but what alternatives are we proposing to make the system as fair as possible for those who require benefits and for those who are working hard to provide them?

  • David Pocock 10th Apr '17 - 12:02am

    Yeah it is a bad policy imo. I get the principle behind the rule but it is a tough one to implement. People object to the extreme cases of like 10 plus children rather than people with three. I would to start draw the like at four or five as that starts the process of decentervising massive families.

    What I really don’t like however is more inequality and child poverty. Child poverty is linked to worse educational outcomes and more poverty. So idk really. I don’t think I can support this even though I would like to see less state support and better wages for folks.

    Re the rape clause. Well if i think about it coldly I think it is unworkable. Rape convictions are small in number and are are insecure both ways. I guess criminal conviction will not be in the civil servants check list so it will mean that there is an incentive to lie on the one hand and actual victims will have to be humiliated or will not do it on the other.

    And then if you think about it as a human, it is just a rotten thing to do and I hope the opposition can do something about this. Can we bring it up at pmqs and do we have an mp working to stop this?

    The nasty party is still nasty.

  • When the Lib Dems backed the introduction of PIP they did so knowing it was intended to cut the former DLA bill by 20%, reduce the number of people claiming by 500,000, those getting top rate mobility by 300,000 and those getting top rate care by 10,000.

    If that party wants to reverse that then maybe complaints about the system might start to have some validity.

  • Why should “hard working people” subsidise others on benefits? Because they may find themselves in exactly the same situation. Work hard, play by the rules, do the right thing, read tabloid newspapers, get nasty, resentful and mean-spirited – and you still might lose your job. Got too many children than the tax-cutting state can afford? Well, you should have thought about the consequences a decade and a half ago when you were successful.

    I think the Tory narrative on welfare stinks; we should take it on full throttle however “populist” it appears, however many votes we might lose. Some things are just wrong full stop.

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