Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has been criticised after saying a controversial policy that forces women to reveal they have been raped might help them – by giving them a chance to talk about it.
She was discussing the “rape clause” introduced as part of the Government’s welfare policies. This limits the amount of benefits parents can claim to the first two children except in exceptional circumstances, including if a child was a result of rape.
Critics point out that it forces women to reveal to the officials dealing with their benefits that they have been raped.
Ms McVey was asked about the policy as she gave evidence to a committee at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood.
She said: “What we’re doing is providing extra help where people have got more children that they couldn’t have planned and we’re providing that extra support – there will be no questions asked from the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] or from HMT [The Treasury], and people will be supported and shown to the various other organisations.
“And again this could give them an opportunity to talk about, maybe, something that has happened, that they never had before, so it is potentially double support … them getting the money they need and maybe an outlet which they might possibly need.”
She was condemned by Birmingham MP Jess Phillips, who said rape victims were not helped by being forced to a complete stranger about what happened.
Ms Phillips (Lab Yardley) said on Twitter: “Imagine your worst, most degrading and traumatic life event. Now walk in to busy job centre and tell a member of staff.”