A campaigning MP has reacted with fury in response to a series of written answers to parliamentary questions which show that – with less than a month until the controversial two child policy and rape clause comes into force – the Government is still no further forward in protecting victims of rape.
Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP who first drew attention to the Government’s ‘barbaric’ proposal, had already forced Ministers into a number of corners – first by sparking a United Nations committee probe into the policy, followed by a climb down by Ministers who had to put the policy out to public consultation, despite originally refusing to do so.
In response to the consultation, Ministers indicated it planned to implement a third party professional reporting system, whereby healthcare professionals, counsellors and social workers would be asked by the DWP to arbitrate whether or not a woman’s circumstances were consistent with having been raped.
The bombshell answers given to Ms Thewliss by Ministers indicate that no training has yet been provided to the hundreds of thousands of social workers, doctors and nurses who will be responsible for judging whether or not a woman has been raped.
Alison Thewliss MP said:
“Over a year and a half ago, I exposed this Government’s barbaric plans to limit tax credits to two children per family and ask survivors of rape – whose child had been conceived as a result of sexual violence – to prove it in order to receive tax credits. Throughout this entire time, it’s been abundantly clear that this policy is immoral and unworkable.
“Even by the UK Government’s standards, this is a total mess. These plans are due to come into force in just 27 days and hundreds of thousands of third party professionals haven’t had the training in the policy which was promised. This puts these frontline workers in an incredibly difficult position should a woman come forward to present a claim.
“Any woman making a claim under the rape clause will already have been through unimaginable trauma, and will expect officials to understand the policy and be able to support her. Without training and guidelines, this is impossible; it will only serve to make that woman feel more stigmatised and vulnerable.
“Other departments in Whitehall are openly distancing themselves from the policy and the UK Government hasn’t even laid the necessary regulations before Parliament which would enable this to happen. This is ridiculous when you consider that it’s due to be implemented in just under a month.
“I suspect UK Government Ministers know this is an unworkable, cruel, policy which will cause untold pain and stress for rape survivors. They have had quite long enough to figure this out, and if Ministers don’t voluntarily drop this policy, I’ll be submitting requests to drag Ministers before the despatch box in Parliament every day until they do.”