Sinn Féin Councillor Caoimhe McKnight has branded a controversial ‘two child’ benefits policy with an associated rape clause ‘disgusting’ and called for it to be immediately scrapped.
Colr. McKnight was speaking following protests were staged in Derry and Belfast on Thursday in opposition to the policy.
The controversial changes were first announced by the Conservative Party’s government two years ago. The government said it wanted to limit child tax credit to the first two children to make those on benefits face the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work.
Exemptions include families who are adopting children or those in kinship care or for parents of twins and other multiple births.
The government has faced a backlash however over a further exemption plan for a child born from “non-consensual conception”, in what has become known as the ‘rape clause’. Women affected by this clause would have to talk to professionals.
Colr. McKnight said: “The two child tax credit cap is a direct attack on low-income families being pursued by Theresa May’s government, aided and abetted by the DUP.
“Not satisfied with its onslaught on people with disabilities, the poor, single parents and young people through austerity policies and previous benefit cuts, the Tory government has now sunk to a new low, even by their standards, with this crude attempt at social engineering and its associated rape clause.
“Under this abhorrent clause, women can be exempted from the cap if they can prove their third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape.
“This involves going through a dehumanising and degrading process, which is a gross violation of their civil and human right to privacy.”
She added: “This disgusting clause and the two child cap fundamentally undermine the protections which the benefits system is supposed to provide. They should be scrapped immediately.”
The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers joined the protest in Belfast, organised by Reclaim the Agenda.
Carolyn Ewart, NIASW Country Manager, said: “Social workers are outraged at the planned introduction of the Universal Credit two-child cap. Our members work daily with the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society and are acutely aware the cap will serve to increase the reach and deepen the impact of poverty here”.