The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the Department for Work and Pensions urging the UK government to scrap the “regressive” Tax Credits two child policy and ‘rape clause‘.
The family cap limits tax credits to only two children per family – unless the mother can prove that a third child was conceived as a result of rape or during an abusive relationship.
The letter warns of the “clear equality issues relating to the policy’s effect on women, on religious groups and on young people.”
EHRC Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath accused the government of pushing through the changes without a sufficient impact assessment and warned the policy could be in breach of human rights laws, urging the Government to reconsider the changes.
She said: “The introduction of a two-child limit for Child Tax Credits is likely to impact on the living standards of children in poorer households with more than two children, and therefore may constitute a regressive measure in relation to the implementation of Articles 26 and 27 of CRC.
“Analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that this policy change will lower 200,000 children below the official poverty line. CPAG estimates that the biggest group affected will be working families with three children, who will miss out on up to £2,780 per year as a result of the policy change.
“The impact assessment published by the Department for Work and Pension for these changes was not sufficiently detailed to support proper scrutiny of the legislation. In particular it failed to mention the Public Sector Equality Duty, how its aims would be achieved, how the potential impact will be monitored or how adverse impact identified after implementation would be tackled.
“There was no evidence provided to support DWP’s assumption that the measures will incentivize families to only have two children if they cannot afford to have more.
“The policy could also have a disproportionately adverse impact on some religious groups, in particular those for whom family planning may be against their religious teachings. This may mean that children in some religious communities are more likely to be brought up in poverty.”
She added: “The Commission is also concerned by the Child Tax Credit (Amendment) Regulations 2017 and the operation of the exemption for children conceived as a result of rape.
“In our view the exception raises serious issues in relation to a child and mother’s right to private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has led the campaign to scrap the changes to Child Tax Credits, said: “The Tory policy that has become known as the rape clause, requiring women to disclose deeply personal information and prove that a third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape in order to claim tax credits, is both disgraceful and disgusting.
“I am glad that the EHRC has backed the calls for the DWP to rethink these vile policies, which are quite clearly a violation of fundamental human rights and contrary to the best interests of children.
“The EHRC has also recognised the situation in Scotland, where specialist agencies have expressed concerns about both the principle of the policy and the lack of sexual violence training and guidance provided by the UK Government to the third party professionals who are expected to carry out the traumatic rape assessment process. There are still no assessors confirmed in Scotland due to these deep misgivings.
“The two-child limit will drag hundreds of thousands more children below the poverty line, leaving working families unable to make up for the cut. The trauma and stigma that the rape assessment process will cause both survivors and children of rape is unthinkable.
“I have been pointing out the flaws in this brutal policy over the past twenty-one months. That the Tories haven’t even attempted to consider how these changes will affect some of the most vulnerable women and families in this country demonstrates a contemptible lack of compassion and human decency.
“It’s time for the DWP to stand up for the dignity and human rights of women and their families and scrap these inhumane policies once and for all.”