BASW Advice Note to Members on the Two Child Cap and the ‘rape clause’

BASW has called for the abolition of the UK Government’s two child cap on Universal Credit and on Child Tax Credits. The policy will place more families into poverty and expose more women and children to further risk of harm.

There are a number of exemptions to the two child cap. These include claims in the instance of multiple births, for adopted children, and for children conceived as a result of a non-consensual sexual act. This final example is commonly referred to as the ‘rape clause’.

A woman seeking to claim Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit for a third or additional child under the rape clause exemption is required to have her application verified by an ‘approved’ third party. The Government’s list of approved third parties includes social workers, healthcare workers, and specialist support workers from approved organisations. No guidance on how this should be done has been issued.

BASW considers it unethical and degrading to subject a woman to disclosure of an incident of rape to a third party to access benefits. Doing so risks further traumatising the woman, stigmatising the child and increases the chance of the woman experiencing additional violence and further mental distress.

This policy was developed without reference to social work or health professionals and has been roundly condemned by other professional bodies such as the BMA and RCN.

Verification that a rape has occurred by a social worker is impossible. All a third party can verify is that a rape has been reported to them.

Asking about and verifying such a matter for the reasons of gaining benefits is not a social work task and it is ethically and morally unjustifiable for social workers to be put in this position by this incoherent policy and legal provision.

BASW accepts all social workers must use their professional judgement and have due regard to the needs of a woman asking for verification. However, BASW will support any member who refuses to engage with this policy on grounds congruent with the BASW Code of Ethics.

BASW assures members it will fully support any member who is challenged by their employer, or faces disciplinary proceedings, for refusing to engage with the process of verification of an application on ethical grounds.

Additional guidance for Social Workers in Northern Ireland

If, under any circumstances, a service user informs a social worker in Northern Ireland they have been raped, the social worker is legally required to report this to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). The social worker is required to report the rape even if it contravenes the wishes of the service user.

The legislation which mandates this course of action is Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967. A social worker who does not report a rape which they are aware of is at risk of prosecution, and, if found guilty, could face a custodial sentence.

BASW recognises reporting a rape to the PSNI in contravention of a service user’s wishes may breach certain aspects of the NISCC Standards of Conduct and Practice. However, the requirements of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 supersede the Regulator’s code, and in such circumstances a social worker must adhere to the law.

NIASW/BASW will fully support any member who is challenged by their employer, or faces disciplinary proceedings, for refusing to engage with the process of verification of an application on ethical grounds.

NIASW members should contact the team on 028 9064 8873 or by emailing n.ireland@basw.co.uk to access support if needed. 

Published : 30th November 2017

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