Today Engender, along with Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, have written to Damian Hinds, Minister of State for the Department of Work and Pensions asking ten questions about the implementation of the so-called 'rape clause'.
It has long been clear to us that both the ‘rape clause’ and the family cap which underpins it are unworkable policies (see our previous blogs here). We also know, however, that women in Scotland will be seeking information on how the UK Government intends to implement the policies, and how it will impact on their families, so we have written for clarity on a number of issues we don't believe have been fully thought through. You can read the letter below, and we'll be publishing a response as soon as we get one.
Re: Social Security (Restrictions on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) Amendment Regulations 2017 and Child Tax Credit (Amendment) Regulations 2017
Seven weeks after the implementation of the two-child limit for tax credits and Universal Credit, we are writing to you to seek urgent clarification on a number of outstanding questions about the operation of the ‘rape clause’.
You may be aware that Scotland’s two national violence against women organisations, Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid, have refused to act as third-party referrers. This is on the grounds that forcing women to choose between disclosure and impoverishment breaches their right to privacy, and that of their child or children, and is intrinsically traumatising.
We do, however, need clear information about the implementation of the ‘rape clause’ so that we can develop guidance for local rape crisis and women’s aid services, and for the national rape and sexual assault and domestic abuse helplines that we operate. We are mindful that although international evidence is very clear that few women will disclose experiences of sexual violence and domestic abuse in order to increase their income from social security, some women accessing our services may require to do so.
Along with Engender, which is working around women and social security in Scotland, we therefore seek clarity on the following issues:
Have any third-party referrers in Scotland been confirmed? The only third-party referrers identified on the DWP’s website are organisational members of the Survivors’ Trust. We have spoken to some of the listed members for Scotland and they have told us they have not agreed to act in this capacity. We are also aware that Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health, has confirmed that NHS Scotland staff will not act in this capacity.
How will third-party referrers be trained in responding to disclosures? What is the content of this training, and what budget has been identified for its delivery?
How will DWP staff assess applications for exemption on the grounds on ‘non-consensual conception’? What is the appeals process for applications that have been declined?
Where will the burden of proof lie in completion of the form claiming the exemption, and will third-party referrers be deemed to be party to benefit fraud if they accept what DWP later determines to be a ‘weak case’?
What are the ways in which the information that a child has been conceived as a result of rape will be recorded? Which agencies will have access to this information and under what circumstances? Will this data be destroyed or removed when the claimant is no longer in receipt of CTC?
Medical records are often sought by defence solicitors acting in rape and sexual assault and domestic abuse cases. How will the DWP respond to a request for specification of documents in criminal cases?
How will CTC awarded under this exemption be notified or coded within a claimant’s award letter or other notification(s)?
What does DWP anticipate will be the interrelationship between the claim form and statutory declaration of parentage? For example, in the circumstance that women who are raped and become pregnant have a partner to whom they are not married who wishes to parent the child and be formally recorded as the father?
What is the DWP’s assessment of the differential impact of the ‘rape clause’ on women and men, and on women’s equality with men?
In order to facilitate advocacy planning, how many pregnancies does DWP estimate will occur as a result of rape in families that already have at least two children? How many of these pregnancies does DWP estimate will be terminated?
We look forward to your early response to these questions.
Executive Director, Engender
National Co-ordinator, Rape Crisis Scotland
Chief Executive, Scottish Women's Aid
Marking 10 years since the Christie Commission A decade ago saw the report from the Christie Committee, a ground-breaking inquiry which aimed to usher in a new era in public sector delivery in Scotland. To mark 10 years since the release of the report, our Executive Director Emma Ritch joined sector leaders in a special edition of Third Force News magazine to reflect on the Commission and progress made on its recommendations.
We are always looking for new voices on our blog.
Please send us your blogs and we can offer editing advice, and we also have some opportunities for paid contributions.