On Wednesday 25th May, Holyrood’s Social Security Committee took evidence on the two child limit and associated ‘rape clause’ from a range of organisations, including Citizens Advice Scotland, Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, and the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG).
The welfare changes, which were announced in 2015 and came into effect from 6 April, limit tax credits to the first two children in a family, with exceptions for adoptions, those involved in kinship care and for children born as a result of “non-consensual conception”, which has become known as the ‘rape clause’.
With the exception of the Tories, the policies have been widely condemned across the political spectrum since their announcement. Despite this, they came into effect last month, leaving the Tory Government faced with strong and continued calls for their immediate repeal.
During the Committee’s evidence session, the welfare changes were criticised across the panel in terms of both their predicted impact in increasing child poverty and disproportionately impoverishing women, and the morally indefensible ‘rape clause’ element, which requires women to choose between the emotional trauma of disclosing rape or financial impoverishment – and for which there is little clarity or guidelines about its administration.
Citizens Advice Scotland, Engender, and Scottish Women’s Aid all expressed the view that they wish to see the two child limit and rape clause scrapped completely.
In 2010, the UK Coalition Government estimated that ‘as many as 350,000 children and 500,000 working adults could be moved out of poverty’ by changes to welfare such as the introduction of Universal Credit.
SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, who sits on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee, probed the panel on what the impact of the Tories’ programme on welfare reform has actually been.
In response, John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group revealed that they estimate the cumulative welfare changes, including the two child cap, to leave one million more children in poverty by 2020. Meanwhile, the two child cap on its own will negatively impact 50,000 households in Scotland by 2021, and push more than 266, 000 children additional children across the UK in poverty by 2020.
Commenting, Ruth said:
“The UK Tory Government has been proven completely wrong in its predictions of reducing child poverty through welfare reform.
Far from reducing it by hundreds of thousands, as they claimed in 2010, the scandalous reality is that these reforms, including the callous two child cap, are dramatically increasing child poverty – with one million more children expected to be living in poverty by 2020.
Then there is the morally indefensible rape clause, which forces women to choose between disclosing rape or financial impoverishment.
It is clear that the Tories have no idea about what impact their policies are having and that their welfare reform has been a complete and utter shambles.
The UK Tory Government needs to listen to organisations such as Citizens Advice Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid about the reality of the impact of its welfare reform on the ground, and repeal its misguided and cruel policies immediately.”