The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has urged the government to overhaul Universal Credit over concerns about its impact on families and the social work role in applying the controversial ‘rape clause’.
BASW also said the government should invest in social work training and measures to prevent staff churn in the Autumn Budget (22 November). It also called for a whole-system approach to reforming adults’ social care.
In a statement published ahead of the budget Ruth Allen, chief executive of BASW, said the so-called ‘rape clause’, which requires a woman to give evidence of non-censual conception if a child outside of the two-child cap on tax credits and child benefit was conceived through rape, was “unethical and cruel” and causing worry for social workers.
‘Scrap two-child cap’
As part of applying for the extra child tax credit, social workers or health and care professionals are expected to verify claims of non-consensual conception.
Allen said: “We are sending a strong message to government that the capping of Universal Credit at two children and the so-called ‘rape clause’ is unethical and cruel.”
“It is fundamentally wrong to expect a woman who has been subject to rape and abuse to have to disclose distressing accounts of what they have been through, not to gain social work support but to be eligible for the benefits their children need.”
Many Universal Credit claimants use social work services, BASW said, and the controversial policy’s impact was being seen on the frontline in the form of vulnerable people being left in debt, using foodbanks and at risk of losing their home. As part of an overhaul, it called on the two-child cap for tax credits and child benefit to be scrapped.
Allen also said adults’ and children’s social work needed investment to develop practice, reduce workloads, stabilise the workforce and make sufficient resources available to people in need.
“There are many areas of public services requiring investment that are running close to empty. Social workers are still too often working with high caseloads that increase risk and reduce effectiveness.
She said underfunding in social services could remain hidden and lead to stress, high demand, working through sickness, burn out and early exit from the profession.
“This is not acceptable and is a national concern, not just a local government issue.”
In total, BASW listed six areas which it said required urgent attention from the budget, which you can see below.