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BASW votes to campaign against unethical universal credit ‘rape clause’

BASW pledged to campaign against the two-child benefit cap currently being rolled out across the UK under the universal credit welfare reform.

The association also wants a controversial measure, dubbed the “rape clause” because the cap does not apply to children conceived as a result of non-consensual sex, to be scrapped.

Delegates unanimously voted in favour of a motion proposed by BASW Northern Ireland’s committee to campaign for the removal of the “flawed policy”.

It was condemned as harmful to low income families, unethical and blamed for putting more children in poverty.

The rape exemption presents an added ethical dilemma to social workers in Northern Ireland who are required by law to report offences.

A report by the National Audit Office concluded universal credit does not offer value for money and questioned if it will ever be able to prove it is achieving its aim of increasing employment.

BASW Northern Ireland chair Colin Reid, who proposed the motion, said: “If you ever want to see a practical outworking of austerity look at the two-child cap. It is estimated 200,000 children will be placed in poverty through this benefit.

“We want to take the campaign against the two-child cap to Westminster, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.”

BASW vice-chair Fran Fuller who seconded the motion, said the two-child cap would “impact on the poor, the sick and low-income families”. She added: “We have a responsibility as social workers to highlight and challenge the two-child cap.”

BASW member David Jones warned if social workers did not oppose the measure families would blame them in the future.

“This is going to increase the number of child protection referrals,” he said. “There will be protests from families whose children have been taken away when they haven’t had the support they deserve and need. Unless we as social workers say this is wrong and we do not stand with this we will be complicit and victims in the criticism and blame that will follow.”

The £2billion scheme has been beset by difficulties and delays, with people complaining of having to wait months for payments. It has been blamed for increased poverty and use of foodbanks.

The Child Poverty Action Group said the programme is “demonstrably failing”.

Westminster’s work and pensions minister Alok Sharma said: “We’ve not yet seen the full impact of these very positive changes.”