A couple of weeks go, our dear chancellor, Phillip Hammond, produced his autumn statement – AKA ‘the budget’. Yep, instead of doing the budget in the spring, you know, round the time the financial year starts, the government is now going to review the country’s spending in the autumn. Apparently, this will give us more time to get ‘match fit’ for Brexit. When the UK’s finances are currently looking less Mo Farah and more Eddie ‘The Eagle’ (I can do sports analogies too, Hamm-ster), he’s maybe right to delay making big decisions in the spring, especially when Theresa May is keen to get the decree nisi into EU by March.
Even though around 28% of children in the UK live in poverty, it was not really addressed in the autumn statement. This was surprising, especially since Theresa May has been so keen to talk about the JAMs (Just About Managing) in her first speech, so you’ve got to wonder why the poorest in the country went just about unaided. It can’t have just been that someone came up with a catchy buzzword, right? Grammar Schools will be getting a £50 million a year budget to expand, but there was no mention of financial help for regular comprehensive schools that can’t afford to run, or extra money for criminally underpaid staff, such as teaching assistants (seriously, pay teaching assistants more. They’re amazing.) But none of these things really piqued my interest about the statement. It was a run of the mill Tory budget and, to be honest, nothing really shocked or surprised me. However, when Phil mentioned my old nemesis, the Tampon Tax, my attention was caught.
The Tampon Tax is essentially taxing people who have periods, and making them responsible for the care of all domestic violence victims.
Tacked in there like a bit of ‘good news’ was that the remaining £3 million earned by the Tampon Tax (it’s £15 million in total) would be allocated to Comic Relief to distribute to women’s charities, helping victims of domestic abuse and female refugees. Critics were quick to point out that this is nothing new – George Osborne allocated the majority of the money last year. It was just the last £3m that needed to be sorted, so Philip was really just taking the credit for that which complicates the Tampon Tax issue further. I’ve talked before about what it is and why it winds me up (read all about it here) but what does this charitable donation really mean?
First of all, I feel very uncomfortable with the idea that basic human needs have to be supported by charities. Like Help for Heroes, for example. Why are those soldiers not being given help as standard? Why does there need to be a charity in place to sort that out? With these domestic violence charities, why is the government not addressing the issue and supplying the support that these people so desperately need? There’s £50 million for grammar schools, but no money for shelters, apparently. And, if these charities are getting a much needed cash injection from the ‘luxury’ Tampon Tax, what will happen to them if the tax is eventually scrapped in 2018? Will the charities fail without the money?
I feel very uncomfortable with the idea that basic human needs have to be supported by charities.
Secondly, let’s simplify it right down. The implication is that domestic violence is a ‘women’s’ problem that should be solved with ‘women’s’ money, rather than the country’s problem. Domestic violence affects one in four women and one in six men (LWA) and there is very little statistical information available about domestic violence against LGBTQA+ people. The Tampon Tax is essentially taxing people who have periods, and making them responsible for the care of all domestic violence victims. It over simplifies what real people in this country are living through and puts domestic violence in a little box, leaving it in the female cubby hole.
So this has put me in something of a quandary. I’m really against paying 5% ‘luxury’ tax on a product I need to use and I feel angry that it’s not been cut like we were promised in March. However, I’m now really worried that not charging the tax is going to severely detriment millions of people who need help. Maybe it’s time to let someone who actually has periods make decisions about this issue? It just doesn’t seem to be working out at the moment.