Despite controversy from politicians and women’s groups, the government is going ahead with its plan to donate £250,000 from the tampon tax to anti-abortion charity Life.
Back in March 2016, campaigners pressured former chancellor George Osborne to scrap the tax entirely.
The government previously reduced the tampon tax from 20% to 5% and claimed that they could not do more for the time being due to EU regulations.
Osborne said: “We’ve used our seat at the top table in Europe to secure what the British public has demanded – common sense on VAT and an end to the tampon tax.”
After going back on his pledge, it was announced that instead, money from the tax would be donated to women’s charities.
In March of this year, the government said in a statement the £12m raised from the tax would be split between 70 organisations.
Some of the news was welcomed, like the £200,000 being donated to the Suzy Lamplugh trust, which aims to support women who are being stalked, and the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in Cornwall, which will receive £179,157.
However one of the largest grants – a quarter of a million – will be given to Life, a charity only recently accused of scaremongering and spreading incorrect information about abortions.
Petitions calling for the government to spend the money elsewhere reached more than half a million signatures, forcing ministers to rethink their plans.
Labour MP Diana Johnson was amongst those calling for a review of the distributed funds. She said: “This decision is not in keeping with the spirit of the tampon tax fund, which was intended to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls.
“Many excellent women’s organisations will have lost funding bids to Life. I am very disappointed that ministers have made this decision in light of the public outcry when this was first put forward.”
But instead of reshuffling their funds, the government have simply decided to pinpoint exactly where Life can spend their grant money.
An investigation by the Observer found the money given to the controversial charity will be spent on: “housing, practical help, counselling, emotional support and life-skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless.”
A spokeswoman from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “As set out in the grant agreement, Life will not be able to use the tampon tax grant to fund its counselling service, or its ‘Life Matters Education Service’ and is prohibited from spending the money on publicity or promotion.
“The grant is for a specific project in west London to support vulnerable, homeless or at-risk pregnant women who ask for their help. All payments will be made in arrears and on receipt of a detailed monitoring report.”
Paying the tampon tax without agreeing with it is one thing, but it’s another thing to inadvertently pay to support anti-abortion groups with the same money.
A spokesperson for the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: “We are surprised to see that Life is the recipient of a very significant tampon tax grant. The government set out clearly that this money would be spent in ways that would address women’s specific needs and inequalities.
“It is hard to understand how a service offering counselling based on the fundamental premise that abortion is wrong, to vulnerable women, can do that.”
Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy tweeted her support, saying: “This fund was supposed to help women not encourage those organisations who want to control them – completely unacceptable and must be stopped.”
Anne Scanlan, Life’s Education Director, hit back at criticism of the grant and applauded the Government for “remaining steadfast in recognising the valuable and vital work we do for vulnerable women.”
A spokesperson for Life said: “We believe that our support services for women are not a luxury but are essential for them to have the space to look at options for continuing their pregnancies with support.”
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