THE Westminster government has been attacked over the ‘rape clause’ by the the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
In a letter to employment minister Damian Hinds, EHRC CEO Rebecca Hilsenrath describes tax credit changes as “regressive” and called for a rethink.
She insists the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) did not carry out “sufficiently detailed” impact assessments and warns the policy change could breach EU human rights laws.
Campaigners have welcomed the intervention and demanded the DWP scrap the “inhumane” policies. 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 when she was in an abusive relationship.
Hilsenrath said: “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.
“The exception, which purports to prevent women from being penalised requires, in our view, invasive reporting requirements of intimate details.
“Children who may not be aware that they were born of rape may well become aware through this process and through the creation of a record.
“We consider that there has been a failure to fully consider the impact of the implementation of this exemption, including the potentially traumatic process for having eligibility assessed and the risk of re-traumatisation upon survivors of rape.
“This system would rely upon women, who we know from statistics are overwhelmingly unlikely to report rape to police, reporting it to Department for Work and Pensions.
“The approach also does not account for children born of an ongoing abusive relationship, where women may not exercise power over decisions on how many children to have – and when.”
Hilsenrath said the impact assessment published by the DWP “was not sufficiently detailed to support proper scrutiny of the legislation”.