Fate of the Third Child

Approved and Unapproved FamiliesFrom 7th April 2017, parents claiming child tax credit will be limited to claiming it for two children only. This is George Osborne’s latest flashy scheme for punishing low-income families in a pretence of “saving money”.

Liz Kendall openly supports this: Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper decline to oppose it (Cooper says she’ll “fight” it but that didn’t extend to voting against it in the Commons). They know that 50% of people who voted Labour in May 2015 support the two-child rule, and Burnham and Cooper aren’t about to try to stick their heads over the parapet and say it’s wrong to do so.

I wrote a few weeks ago why I think this policy is wrong, but this post is about the people who are blithely sure this won’t really affect children of low-income families, and why they haven’t thought it through.

What this policy is really for is to push the idea of the feckless poor, and especially, feckless women who have children without thinking of the consequences. (Iain Duncan Smith and his wife Betsy Fremantle have four children, but that’s OK, because Iain Duncan Smith has a huge salary and Betsy Fremantle is wealthy in her own right.)

The rape test exception proves the point:

Hidden away in paragraph 2.103 of the “red book” (the budget) is the following sentence: “The Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as a result of rape, or other exceptional circumstances.”

In other words, a rape test will be introduced into our welfare law. The implication being that those mothers who can provide evidence of rape will not have their tax credits removed, presumably because they did not choose to have a third child.

A woman who was made pregnant by rape and decided not to have an abortion, is allowed to claim child tax credit for the rapist’s child.

A woman who was made pregnant by a casual consensual encounter where a condom broke (and the first pharmacist she went to was a prolifer who didn’t believe in emergency contraception) and who then decided not to have an abortion – isn’t allowed to claim child tax credit, because, the feckless slut, she actually enjoyed having sex when she engendered her third child.

Most parents aren’t going to make the third child do without the kind of things the first two children can have with “their” child tax credits: instead, all three children – the entire family – will suffer financially because of this.

Some women will decide, in the face of the financial penalties to be imposed on them by this system, that if they get pregnant a third time they’ll have an abortion. That is forced abortion: if a woman would rather have had the baby but can’t face the financial penalties to be imposed on her for having a third child, a privilege which is, to Osborne and IDS and Liz Kendall, reserved for people too wealthy to need child tax credits. Or should the surplus children be winnowed out of the family, put up for adoption to wealthier or childless couples or put into care?

(I should say that I am one of three children: yes, my parents had the kind of family that Liz Kendall thinks should be subjected to financial penalties to teach ’em better.)

We live in a country where a woman who steals three bottles of baby milk from Sainsburys (total retail price, £10.47) is

handed a six-week community order with curfew and was ordered to pay a £150 criminal courts charge, £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge

We live in a country where a man whose wife is in hospital, who has three children, one with cerebral palsy, is forced to put them into care because of sanctions on his benefit for not applying for work while a full-time carer:

The Jobcentre called him in for a back to work interview. They unlawfully told him that he had to look for work and start claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Yes we know that he did not by law have to do this, indeed his place was to be at home caring for his disabled child and his other children.

He said his whole life felt like he was on a treadmill. He had no rest. They kept sanctioning him because they said he hadn’t looked for work enough. He said he had, but he also had to care for his children. Then the sanctioning started. One sanction after another. He was going hungry, and he didn’t know what to do.. He just saw himself as a failure to his children. He said to me “I couldn’t even provide £70 a week for them. I’m a failure as a parent”. So he took the only option that he thought he could take at the time. He contacted social services and told them that they would have to take over the care of his children. He couldn’t provide for them. He could give them love but it’s not enough he said.

On Thursday I saw a broken and angry man. He said that he has nothing really to live for and is a failure. He couldn’t even provide £70 a week for his children he says. He also said to me that now they are in care they get everything that they need, everything that he couldn’t provide because the DWP refused him the basic human right of being able to bring his children up in their home environment.

But he and his wife had three children.

We live in a country where Osborne, IDS, and Kendall would begin by sanctioning him of child tax credits for the third child. Because he and his wife should have known they were too poor to be allowed to have more than two children.

And for those who support Liz Kendall for leader of the Labour Party, it’s important to them that the Labour Party not look like it’s any kind of political movement to support parents in that kind of horrendous situation: stealing baby milk? Fine her! Wanting to be a full-time parent to his kids? Sanction their benefits until he puts them into care!

For people who support the “two child rule”, especially those who were born and brought up in two-child families and who have chosen to have only two children themselves, this “third child” may be an abstract concept, a luxury expense that most women should know they can’t afford to have.

But to me, one child in a three-child family: each of us was a real person. Tell my parents they have to decide to lose one of us or live in poverty, they’d choose poverty rather than pick out one to get rid of.

Bringing up children in poverty doesn’t save money, neither in the short run nor in the long view.

But even if it did, making children suffer for their parents’ choices will always be the wrong thing to do.

And at what point does this stop, once you accept that families on a low income should be forced to limit their children to no more than two, by whatever financial penalties can be imposed? There is voiceless testimony to the fate of children deemed surplus to requirements, children whom it was thought right to penalise because their mothers had had babies they could not support themselves.

I asked one Liz Kendall supporter how she thought the third child ought to be dealt with: her responses indicated she hadn’t actually thought that far ahead. (And then she blocked me.) But she knows this policy is popular, and that’s what matters. Not whether it’s right. Besides, she’s in favour of “people not getting pregnant”: the fate of the third child does not concern her.

To people in my position, austerity can be read as regrettable but pragmatic. But to my friends and family, who live outside the bubble, it’s not regrettable, it’s terrifying. It’s also not pragmatic. The crackpot, gimcrack ideological nature of austerity becomes more apparent the closer you get to the point of delivery.

Outside the bubble, everyone knows that an economy in which you can work 50 hours a week and still need tax credit to make the rent is a broken economy. To those outside the bubble, a Parliament that knows the country does not have enough houses yet cannot bring itself to build any for fear of “interfering with the market”, is not a Parliament at all. And a media that sees a 50p top tax-rate, public investment and re-nationalisation of the worst failures of privatisation (railways and energy) as politically dangerous is a media whose understanding of politics has shrivelled into mere gossip. – Why Corbyn is so popular, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Liz Kendall supporter defends 2child rule

13 Comments

Filed under Children, Poverty, Women

13 responses to “Fate of the Third Child

  1. Pingback: Interesting Links for 19-08-2015 | Made from Truth and Lies

  2. T

    A woman who was made pregnant by a casual consensual encounter where a condom broke (and the first pharmacist she went to was a prolifer who didn’t believe in emergency contraception) and who then decided not to have an abortion – isn’t allowed to claim child tax credit, because, the feckless slut, she actually enjoyed having sex when she engendered her third child.

    Um, no, it’s because she chose to have sex, and the raped woman didn’t.

    If she couldn’t afford to get pregnant she could have tried — revolutionary idea I know — not having sex.

    (One would hope, too, that in such a situation the father is perused to pay for the child’s upkeep and education: there’s no reason he should get off scot-free while the mother suffers alone. Men, just as much as women, shouldn’t be having sex if they aren’t prepared to face the consequences, ie, babies).

    • Thanks for illuminating more clearly than I could the misogynistic slut-shaming that lies behind this bit of Tory government policy.

      • alextfish

        I don’t think it’s “slut-shaming” to claim that sex carries the chance of having babies. Part of good sex education is that all contraceptives are unreliable to some degree. Abstinence *is* possible, despite being unfashionable.

        I also don’t see how “both the people who choose to have sex should be equally held financially accountable for its consequences” is misogynistic.

        • I don’t think it’s “slut-shaming” to claim that sex carries the chance of having babies.

          It is when you use that argument to tell women they shouldn’t have sex.

          Part of good sex education is that all contraceptives are unreliable to some degree.

          And abstinence, as everyone knows, is the the least reliable form of contraception.

          I also don’t see how “both the people who choose to have sex should be equally held financially accountable for its consequences” is misogynistic.

          Forcing a woman to deal with a man she may not want to have to deal with, on the basis of a sexual encounter? Yeah, I can see why you don’t see how forcing women into relationships with men is misogynistic….

          In any case, not relevant. Except for people like you, it’s understood by all the welfare of the children is the important factor. The sheer nastiness of deciding you’re going to make children suffer in order to punish their mother for having sex may seem simply logical to you, but to anyone with a heart and a concern for child welfare, it’s obscene.

          • alextfish

            Oh, please don’t misunderstand me – the two-child policy is utterly obscene and horrific. There’s no way a modern society should be imposing something like that, and the Tories have the deaths of many poor people to answer for. And the Labour candidates who support it are no better. On the social policy you and I are entirely in agreement. The sexual ethics are indeed entirely irrelevant to that.

            It’s just that a lot of people seem to think these days that self-control is impossible. Abstinence is the *most* effective form of contraception, if practiced consistently (as all forms of contraception must be).

          • Oh, please don’t misunderstand me – the two-child policy is utterly obscene and horrific. There’s no way a modern society should be imposing something like that, and the Tories have the deaths of many poor people to answer for. And the Labour candidates who support it are no better.

            Well, I’m glad that despite your support for Tory slut-shaming, you understand that it’s doubly obscene either to impose punishment on women for having sex and to impose it in the form of depriving children on what they need.

            But, abstinence is the least effective form of contraception. Religious anti-science types try to tout it as the most effective, but that ignores the plain fact that abstinence is the form of contraception with the highest failure rate.

          • T

            It is when you use that argument to tell women they shouldn’t have sex

            To tell women and men they shouldn’t have sex, if they’re not prepared to deal with the consequences.

            And abstinence, as everyone knows, is the the least reliable form of contraception

            Not sure how you work that one out. Is there anyone who has practised abstinence consistently and still got pregnant (bar maybe one, unconfirmed, example in Nazareth)?

            Forcing a woman to deal with a man she may not want to have to deal with […] in order to punish their mother for having sex

            Also, forcing a man to deal with a woman he may not have to deal with, to punish their mother and father for having sex. This isn’t a sexist thing about punishing women for having sex; its about punishing people, men and women, for having sex.

          • To tell women and men they shouldn’t have sex, if they’re not prepared to deal with the consequences.

            You dehumanise a child to “consequences” that have to be “dealt with”?

            Not sure how you work that one out.

            Abstinence has the highest failure rate. Virtually no one decides to use abstinence as contraception and then never has sex again: but people who have decided to use abstinence as a form of contraception will then not be prepared with any other form of contraception when they do have sex.

            I don’t understand how you don’t know this: it’s data available to anyone who’s looked at the failure rate of “abstinence as contraception” teaching programmes used to such disastrous effect in so many US states, as well as basic common sense: most people grow out of the idea that mummy and daddy only have sex when they’re making a baby certainly by adolescence.

            Also, forcing a man to deal with a woman he may not have to deal with, to punish their mother and father for having sex.

            Eh? That sentence is so badly constructed you might want to try rewording it, if you’re really going to keep digging this misogynistic pit.

            This isn’t a sexist thing about punishing women for having sex; its about punishing people, men and women, for having sex.

            Actually, as noted above, it’s about punishing children because their mother had consensual sex, since the footnoted exemption is that a third child engendered by rape can still receive child tax credits. Since men don’t generally become pregnant when raped, this is clearly targeting women who have consensual sex for pleasure. It’s sexist, misogynistic, and dehumanising children to – as you put it – “consequences”.

          • T

            Abstinence has the highest failure rate

            No; it doesn’t.

            People may fail to practise abstinence; but among those who practise abstinence, the chance of pregnancy is pretty much zero.

            Unlike other methods of contraception, for instance, abstinence is immune to the risk of accidental failure. You can accidentally forget to take the pill, but you can’t accidentally have sex. If you have sex, then either you consciously consented to it (in which case you are no longer practising abstinence, so it’s the equivalent of deliberately deciding not to take your pill any more, rather than forgetting), or (by definition) you were raped.

            Since men don’t generally become pregnant when raped, this is clearly targeting women who have consensual sex for pleasure

            Assuming that the father are pursued for their share of the costs, actually, it is targeting both women and men who have sex for pleasure.

            It’s not misogynistic; it’s saying, whether you are a man or a woman, don’t have sex for pleasure unless you are prepared to care for a child.

            I don’t see how that’s anti-children, either; how is it anti-children to force a child’s parents to think about whether they really want to care for it before they have their momentary pleasure?

            Or to force them, after they have had their pleasure, to contribute to its upbinging?

          • People may fail to practise abstinence; but among those who practise abstinence, the chance of pregnancy is pretty much zero.

            Now you’re just not looking at the data – wilfully so. The failure rate of abstinence as a form of contraception is the number of times people who meant to be abstinent but who then go to have unprotected sex because they didn’t have any more useful contraception on them because they meant to be abstinent, and conception then occurs. Abstinence has the highest failure rate of any form of contraception: that’s the facts.

            Assuming that the father are pursued for their share of the costs, actually, it is targeting both women and men who have sex for pleasure.

            That’s a very big assumption, and also, of course, punishes the woman specifically by ensuring she is not allowed to separate from a man simply because she once had sex with him and happened to conceive.

            It’s not misogynistic; it’s saying, whether you are a man or a woman, don’t have sex for pleasure unless you are prepared to care for a child.

            Third child.

            The point of this blog post was that third children are to be deprived of the financial support the first two children are entitled to, unless the third child was conceived by rape.

            So, the point is to punish the child by depriving the child of the financial support the first two children are entitled to, because the child was conceived via consensual sex.

            You really don’t seem to be paying any attention to this: instead you seem to want to preach abstinence to heterosexual couples unless they’ve decided to engender a child.

            While certainly that’s an interesting point of view, I think you’ll find it’s an impractical one to base government policy on.

            I don’t see how that’s anti-children, either; how is it anti-children to force a child’s parents to think about whether they really want to care for it before they have their momentary pleasure?

            Because you’re arguing in defense of the government policy that the third child so conceived can only receive the child tax credits the first two are entitled to, if the third child was conceived by rape. All third children who were conceived by pleasurable consensual sex, are to be financially penalised. And you “don’t see” why this is anti-child?

            Or to force them, after they have had their pleasure, to contribute to its upbinging?

            Goodness, are you under the vaguely ignorant idea that child tax credits provide the entire support that a child needs? I suggest you inform yourself a bit better before attempting to discuss this: you are coming across as completely ignorant of the costs and needs of bringing up a child.

          • T

            The failure rate of abstinence as a form of contraception is the number of times people who meant to be abstinent but who then go to have unprotected sex because they didn’t have any more useful contraception on them because they meant to be abstinent, and conception then occurs

            No, that’s like saying the failure rate of condoms is the number of times people who meant to use condoms but they decided they didn’t actually like the feeling of using them so stopped using condoms and then conception occurred.

            If you’re going to use failure rate as a measurement, then it has to be failure rate while they are actually deliberately using the method. S mechanical failure (condom splits) or human failure (forgetting to take a pill) counts but deliberately abandoning the method of contraception (deliberately not using a condom because you don’tt like it, deliberately having sex if the method chosen was abstinence) cannot count towards the failure rate, can it? After all, a contraceptive method can’t ‘fail’ if it was deliberately and consciously not employed, can it?

            That’s a very big assumption, and also, of course, punishes the woman specifically by ensuring she is not allowed to separate from a man simply because she once had sex with him and happened to conceive

            It also punishes the man by ensuring he is not allowed to separate from a woman simply because he once had sex with her and happened to conceive, and that is the point: men and women should not have sex merely for pleasure and not thinking about the possible consequences with regard to conception, and if conception occurs the man should be held as liable as the woman for the upkeep of the child, at least financially and is as many other ways as possible.

            you seem to want to preach abstinence to heterosexual couples unless they’ve decided to engender a child

            There are, I gather, a lot of couples who both work full-time, who claim no benefits or tax credits from the state, who have two children, and who abstain from having a third because their finances will not stretch to the upkeep of a third child.

            Why should they practise abstinence while the state is happy to contribute to the third and fourth children of other families who are not working so hard, by giving them additional benefits or tax credits?

            It is unfair, quite apart from the pure immorality of having sex for pure pleasure (which to be honest ought to be enough), to compare an earning couple unable to have a third child because they cannot afford it, to someone living off the state who get additional tax credits for each child they have.

          • No, that’s like saying the failure rate of condoms is the number of times people who meant to use condoms but they decided they didn’t actually like the feeling of using them so stopped using condoms and then conception occurred.

            Actually, that is counted as part of the failure rate of condoms. The failure rate is counted by “People who started out intending to use this form of contraception and then got pregnant anyway”.
            http://contraception.about.com/od/contraceptionfailure/f/Failure-Rates.htm

            So, people who start out intending to use condoms experience an 85%-98% failure rate, and it is entirely plausible that at the low end – the 85% – the failure rate is caused by failure to use condoms at all, either because they were unobtainable or because the woman was talked out of insisting the man wear one every time, etc.

            The failure rate of abstinence is extremely high because it ensures the person pledging abstinence hasn’t got any other form of birth control protecting them.
            http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2010/03/05/whats-typical-useeffectiveness-rate-abstinence/

            men and women should not have sex merely for pleasure and not thinking about the possible consequences with regard to conception [of a third child], and if conception occurs the man should be held as liable as the woman for the upkeep of [the third child], at least financially

            I’m sorry for the edits, but you keep forgetting to put in “third child”, so I’m just adding that for you.

            Why is it that you feel the government should get to interfere in a woman’s personal life after she’s had two children?

            I guess the next part of your comment answers this:

            There are, I gather, a lot of couples who both work full-time, who claim no benefits or tax credits from the state, who have two children, and who abstain from having a third because their finances will not stretch to the upkeep of a third child.

            The number of parents who claim no benefits from the state is unknown. These would be parents who together earn at least £41,000 a year and who have private health insurance / don’t use the NHS for any of their paediatric healthcare. The income of £41,300 is the maximum above which a parent cannot claim any child tax credits and puts a couple in the top 30% of the population. Having a third child for a couple in those circumstances would put them into the top 39% of the population, so the third child does make a considerable difference financially.
            http://www.theguardian.com/society/datablog/interactive/2012/jun/22/how-wealthy-you-compared

            and yes: couples who choose to may use contraception or have an abortion in cases of contraception failure, if the woman feels that would be the best thing to do.

            Your idea that the government should enforce this use of contraception or abortion with a financial club to make sure anyone in the bottom 70% of the populartion by income knows they aren’t allowed to have a third child, strikes me as highly immoral.

            Why should they practise abstinence while the state is happy to contribute to the third and fourth children of other families who are not working so hard, by giving them additional benefits or tax credits?

            There is literally no evidence that couples in the top 30% of the population are “practicing abstinence”.

            As foe why the “state is happy to contribute”: because in a civilised country, children aren’t punished for their parents poverty, and in a rational country, children aren’t punished because their parents had sex for pure pleasure.

            It is unfair, quite apart from the pure immorality of having sex for pure pleasure (which to be honest ought to be enough),

            Well, thanks for illuminating again that people who support this government initiative not only think that the children conceived -as you feel – “immorally” should suffer, but that it’s “pure immorality” to have sex for pure pleasure.

            You are slut-shaming.

            to compare an earning couple unable to have a third child because they cannot afford it, to someone living off the state who get additional tax credits for each child they have.

            And by “living off the state” you mean everyone who makes less than £41,300 a year?

            So, for the upper 30%, it’s “unfair” that if they have a third child, it will push them down into only the upper 39%, and for the lower 70%, they are immoral for wanting to have sex for pleasure?

            Again, you know, I’m quite appreciative of your comments. If I’d tried to claim that people like you really exist and really do think that children deserve to suffer if they were conceived in pure pleasure because that makes their parents immoral, I’m prepared to bet no one would have believed me. But there you are, large as life.

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