An open letter to Jacob Rees-Mogg about the two-child benefit cap

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Dear Mr Rees-Mogg, 

I am appealing to you as a family man, committed Roman Catholic and person of undisputed influence about the hardships arising out of recent changes to child tax credits and universal credit.

As you know, since April 2017, all new applications for these benefits across the UK have been restricted to the first two children in a family. An allowance for a third or subsequent child may only be granted under specified circumstances.

Of particular note, a family is exempt from the two-child cap if an approved assessor, a social worker or other healthcare professional verifies that any additional children were conceived as a result of rape, a non-consensual act or a controlling relationship.

Words cannot express how relieved I am that now retired I will never be expected to decide on rape or similar claims. Any decision taken against a woman’s assertions about such intimate and sensitive circumstances would, in all likelihood, have jeopardised any established working relationship. The British Association of Social Workers has condemned the ‘rape clause’ as unethical and degrading.

However, on matters of faith, I am sure you will sympathise where a third or more pregnancy has arisen because of failed birth control. In such cases a woman who relies on either of the identified credits may feel obliged to request a termination, even if against deeply held beliefs. The dilemma of protecting her family from further hardship or betraying her religious or moral convictions may be very real.

Furthermore, some families feel bound to adhere strictly to doctrine that forbids the use of birth control. How will such families affected by the two-child limit survive? Is it only possible for the wealthy to follow their religious convictions on this most private of family matters?

If you believe otherwise, would you agree that the recent changes to the tax and child credits are in fact discriminatory and an intrusion on private family life?

You are no doubt aware of the likely hidden costs of the current regulations such as additional administration, professional input and any investigations required in contested rape cases. Furthermore, allowing credits for only two out of three, four or more children will inevitably lead to financial deprivation for large families.

The consequences of poverty, increased incidence of poor health, depression, homelessness and numbers of children in state care will almost certainly cause costs to be diverted elsewhere.

Critically, the ‘extra’ child penalties conflict with ‘Every Child Matters’, which states the Government’s worthy aims about the wellbeing of all children, irrespective of background.

The regulations as they stand represent just one example of recent welfare reforms that will make it even harder for many families who are ‘just about managing’ to be able to cope.

I hope you will support the case for the two-child limit to be repealed forthwith on the grounds it is unethical, discriminatory and given the harmful effects of poverty, very likely to cost rather than to save public money.

A retired social worker

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