When Theresa May became Prime Minister, she stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised that she would govern in the interests of the “just about managing” acknowledging that people can work every waking hour and still be struggling to make ends meet. But this agenda is increasingly looking like a sham. Last week, the entire Social Mobility Commission which was set up under the Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government resigned, with the Chair, Alan Milburn saying that “the worst position in politics is to set out a proposition that you’re going to heal social divisions and then do nothing about it.”
The numbers are damning. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity has published a report this week setting out figures showing that since 2010/2011, nearly 400,000 more children have fallen into poverty, and they mostly come from families where the parents are in work. This is compounded by the proposed two child limit on child tax credits that the Government is insisting on ploughing ahead with. Analysis by the trade union UNISON has found that a couple with one earner, who have a third child born after the 6th April 2017, will be £2,780 worse off as a result of the Tories’ two children limit on tax credits. This breaks the Prime Minister’s promise to help the “just about managing”, represents a direct tax on a child, and is an attack on the idea of family. It will leave some families unable to make ends meet.
We also know that the amount of unsecured debt is spiralling in the UK as families struggle financially. But, calculations by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies show that this Tory tax credit “reform” will make things worse for just about managing families, not better. Nearly 600,000 families with 3 children will on average lose around £2,500 per year and 300,000 families with four or more children will on average lose £7,000 per year once the change has been fully rolled out.
These changes are a deliberate tax imposition on third children born on or after 6th April 2017, but they of course impact on all members of affected families, adults and children alike. The changes make no allowance for families falling on hard times, no matter how hard the parents have worked, or how much they have paid into the system.
The new rules are an attack on the very idea of family. If a single dad caring for two children and a single mum with a child of her own, wanted to join their families together under these rules they would face a financial penalty of £2,780 if any of those children were born after April 6th 2017. Families come in all shapes and sizes, with circumstances that can and do change.
These new rules punish working families. A child born after 6th April 2017 is no less a child, and has no fewer needs, than a child born a day earlier. There can be no policy important enough, or the marginal saving worth enough, to justify deliberately placing children into poverty. Let’s be clear, without this money some families will be unable to meet their basic needs. Hunger and cold do not discriminate between the “deserving” and “underserving”. Therefore, every child deserves support regardless of the choices and circumstances of their parents.
Which brings me onto the other element of this dreadful policy; the “rape clause” exemption.
Exemptions to the tax credit limit of two children include children who have been conceived as a result of “non-consensual” conception.
The rules require rape victims to relive their trauma in trying to justify their tax credit claim on an application form they must complete. They must name the child. The Department of Work and Pensions have described the changes to tax credits as a “key part of controlling public spending.”
I can think of a lot better ways to do this. I bet you can too. That’s why I am supporting the campaign to overturn this dreadful policy.