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‘John Hood’, civil servants’ union PCS rep

The requirement for victims to complete an eight-page form in order to qualify for the so-called “rape clause” exemption from child benefit cuts has led to a national outcry.

The Tory government’s new restrictions on child benefits were already an attack on working class women and families. This new policy puts civil servants in the position of having to explain to victims of rape that they will need a “third-party professional” to also complete the form before they will be given access to child benefit.

Workers in the civil service are used to enacting policies they don’t necessarily agree with. But the prospect of explaining this inhumane process to women who have already experienced horrific trauma is unacceptable.

Staff will also need to explain how the policy does not allow the benefit to be claimed if the mother still lives with her attacker – a situation that, sadly, is not uncommon.

No special training on how to best deal with women who have questions about the rape clause has been provided. Civil service management seemingly doesn’t realise how distressing having to quibble with victims of sexual crime will be for staff – let alone claimants.

Additionally, workers in Northern Ireland could potentially be committing a criminal offence if they don’t report to police that a rape took place – but would be breaching confidentiality if they do report it.

Staff expected to deal with this side of things should be given full training and support. Commitment should be given that departments will support any worker threatened with prosecution as a result of following these new rules.

Civil service unions must make it clear that they oppose the two-child limit. As a first step they should argue for the “rape exception” form to be dropped and replaced with something that supports victims, while campaigning for the two-child limit – and all attacks on benefits – to be reversed.

Corbyn too must shout this loud and clear if he is to mobilise hard-hit claimants and public sector workers to vote.