So, I signed the petition to repeal the 'rape clause' that forms part of the tax credit policy now. And today, I received a government response which amounted to "you should have complained about this eighteen months ago, tough shit". But one paragraph absolutely INCENSED me:
LET US PARSE THIS STATEMENT
"Families supporting themselves solely through work" are either not claiming the tax credits they are entitled to, or earning more than the income threshold (£25000 for one child, £35000 for two). Look at those thresholds: they are Quite High particularly as the average annual income is £27000. The vast majority of working class families qualify for tax credits. Remember the 'hardworking families" trope? That's them.
"do not see their incomes rise automatically when they have more children". No, but by earning more than the income thresholds for tax credits, they already have a considerable scope for a much higher income. Two children on £35000 a year is very different to two children on £45000 a year. There are always people who fall into the cracks of being just over the threshold, but frankly if you struggle on £36k p.a. with two children (as one who has been doing so on much less for years) learn to budget better. A great deal of necessary public sector jobs have low and locked in salaries - an MAU staff nurse in Peterborough can expect a starting salary of between £22 and £24k; a newly qualified teacher's income is capped at £22k in their first year - which automatically classifies them as both poor and according to this government, an idiot with no idea how to control their fertility unless you threaten them financially.
"The policy encourages families who receive benefits or tax credits to make the same financial decisions about the number of children they can afford to support as those families who support themselves solely through work"
WHERE TO FUCKING BEGIN? The fucking PATRONISING language - "we ENCOURAGE the IDIOT POOR PEOPLE to STOP BREEDING". The whole idea that Only Rich People are sensible enough and rich enough to have more than two children. The idea that people have children for tax credits - yes, the difficult pregnancy, birth and eternity of care I invested in my third child is definitely worth the £50 extra a week. And separating those who claim tax credits - 4.43 million households out of approximately 18 million in the UK at the last ONS count - from those who don't need to as though that is a fair and just way of dividing the nation's fertility choice. Previously, those who were on income support or JSA were the Undeserving Poor of the nation. Now, apparently, it's to be extended to anyone on a low income regardless of how much they work or what classification of job they have.
"while protecting the vulnerable by retaining extra support for families with disabled children." DON'T MAKE ME FUCKING LAUGH. I have a disabled child, and believe me, I had to TAKE THE DEPARTMENT OF WORK AND PENSIONS TO COURT AND THEN THREATEN TO DO IT AGAIN to get them to pay the money rightfully owed to my disabled child. They don't give a single solitary fuck about disabled children.
None of this stops me or anyone else from having thirty two children if I want to, but the fact is that most low income households have included tax credits as part of their forecast income when deciding to have more children, and now they will have to stop doing that. There is an uncomfortable element of eugenics inherent in this policy that reminds me of the Victorian era when it was widely believed that poverty and poor moral behaviour were genetically linked. Stop the poor people having loads of kids and maybe there won't be any more poor people to worry about! Never mind fixing the causes of poverty and social inequality, just financially sterilise them!
But for a whole host of women, this family cap is going to be a real fucking issue. You see, it is applied to children born after 7th April 2017 and to "any new claims". So, if your circumstances change in the near future, and you suddenly find yourself applying for tax credits for the first time, little Imogen the Third Child won't be counted. If your partner moves in, or out, that counts as a new claim, so you may be absolutely fine now as a single parent of four, but if your boyfriend moves in, you will suddenly find two of your children are apparently not eating all your food, requiring clothes, using energy etc.
My situation six years ago was nothing uncommon - boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy impregnates girl, boy fucks off without a backward glance. I only had two children when I was dumped, but had it been another two years down the line, it could have been three. We could have easily afforded three children - indeed, we both now have three children - but I cannot stress enough how terrifying it was to suddenly lose 4/5s of my household income. My monthly wage didn't cover the mortgage, nevermind anything else. I relied on tax credits. Nobody should have children they cannot afford, but having children when you can afford them does not act as insurance against any financial or personal misfortune in the future. Women with more than two children in abusive relationships will have to think long and hard over whether they can afford to leave their partner.The Tories have also cut bereavement benefits, so if your husband or wife dies leaving you with more than two children, you are doubly fucked.
It will be women who suffer the most through this tax credit amendment. Two million lone parent households exist in the UK - that's just under half of all tax credit claims - and 91% of them are headed by women. Not only do women suffer the brunt of single parenting, they also have this fucking rape clause bullshit to overcome, where their third child only gets benefit if they are a product of rape. Never mind marital rape, never mind the ethics of being obliged to report your rape just to secure a little extra money, what sort of fucking government decides the only reason a poor woman might have more than two children is because she was raped?
It is a toxic, classist, eugenic and misogynist amendment and I loathe it and the party that instituted it with all my heart and soul.