Latest Public Sector News

23.05.16

UN to investigate tax credit cap after MP raises alarm over rape clause

The United Nations is assessing whether the proposed cap on tax credit to families with two children breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In response to a letter from Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, Ibrahim Salama, director of the Human Rights Treaties Division at the UN, said that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child will begin its periodic review of the UK tomorrow.

As part of the review it will consider the UK government’s response to a list of issues raised by the committee last October, including asking whether an assessment of the impact of the tax credit cap under the convention had been carried out.

As Thewliss pointed out, of particular concern in the reforms is a startling clause stating that a woman can still receive tax credit if she has three children and can prove that the third child was conceived as a result of rape.

Thewliss called the policy “medieval…unworkable, immoral and almost certainly in contravention of the Convention”.

With figures released last year showing that just 12% of rape complaints to the police result in conviction, it is particularly concerning that large numbers of women who have been raped, but for whatever reason did not see their rapist convicted, will have no means of legally proving that their child is a result of rape under this new law.

Furthermore, it seems exceptionally inhumane to require women to discuss a traumatic experience they may prefer to keep private with officials in order to keep money they need to feed their children.

Given how difficult and dangerous it is for abused partners to leave a relationship, it is also not clear how women who have been raped by their partner and are unable to leave will be able to prove this without putting themselves at risk of further abuse.

The UN is already investigating the government’s strict assessments of disability benefits claimants as a potential human rights violation, raising serious concerns about whether the government’s benefit policy as a whole is acceptable in a modern and humane society.

It is vital that both the UN and the government immediately conduct a full investigation into whether this policy is practical, given the risks it can cause both women and children.

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)

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