Social workers highlight ‘unethical and degrading’ problems with two-child benefit cap

As part of a meeting facilitated by Gavin Robinson MP, the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) met with Shailesh Vara MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to outline major concerns regarding the Universal Credit two-child cap and the associated ‘rape clause’ exemption.

The UK Government’s introduction of the Universal Credit two-child cap in April 2017 incorporates a series of exemptions—including for children conceived as a result of non-consensual sexual acts—commonly known as the ‘rape clause’. Social workers are among the professionals listed by the Government as third parties approved to assess claims made under the rape clause.

Unlike in Great Britain, social workers in Northern Ireland are legally required to report to the police information disclosed to them about a rape as part of a Universal Credit application.

After the meeting with Mr Vara, Martina Jordan, NIASW Professional Officer said: “It is unethical and degrading to subject a woman to disclose an incident of rape to a social worker to access benefits. However, what’s more, in Northern Ireland a woman in this situation loses the freedom to choose whether to report the offence to police, as the social worker’s hands are tied by the requirements of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967.

“There are many reasons a woman may not want a rape reported to police and compelling the disclosure of an offence is unethical. When introducing the Universal Credit two-child cap and rape clause the UK Government either failed to recognise the implications for women and social workers in Northern Ireland, or worse, intentionally overlooked them.

Ms Jordan concluded by saying: “We welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Minister and thank Mr Robinson for facilitating the meeting.  However, we urgently need a commitment from Government to support the removal of the requirement to report offences declared in relation to Universal Credit applications”.

Picture (c) Anna Gowthorpe / PA Wire.