Members of Scotland’s largest rape support charities will not sign forms exempting women from the Government’s third-child tax cut.
Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid will both refuse to sign form NCC1 4/17, which exempts children born of non-consensual sex from cuts to child tax credit.
Chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid Marsha Scott said: “Organisations that are most trusted by women are being used as tools to get the Government off the hook of doing some thing untenable, which is cutting women off of child benefit after their second child.
“Participating in this would be saying that we are willing to be a part of re-victimising women and children.”
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) April 6, 2017
After a wide consultation with support groups and others, the Government measures came into force across the UK on Thursday, cutting child tax credit and Universal Credit for third or subsequent children.
A number of exemptions to the new rules are in place, including multiple birth, adoption and non-consensual pregnancy.
The so-called rape clause means women who were the victim of rape or conceived while in a coercive relationship will have to prove their third child was born as a result of this in order to qualify for an exemption.
In order to prove this, a six-page form must be filled out by a third party professional. These are healthcare professionals, social workers and support workers from approved organisations, including rape support services.
Scott added that as far as she knew, “nobody in NHS Scotland or in Scottish social work has said that they will co-operate with this”.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, Scott and Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “We’ve been asked why, if the policy is going ahead, we aren’t willing to help those women who need it and play our part.
“We hope that to make clear that in doing so we would be jeopardising the most critical relationship we have, the one we share with women who have experienced violence or abuse. The risk is far too great.”
In a statement, Rape Crisis Scotland, who is also refusing to act as third party professionals to sign the form, said: “To act as ‘verifiers’ for example by ascertaining/deciding whether someone’s date of conception was consistent with a pregnancy resulting from rape, would fundamentally change the nature of our relationship with the survivors we support.
“Having control over whether, who and when to tell someone about having been raped is a vital part of the healing process, and being forced to do so in order to receive tax credits is completely at odds with that.
“We believe the connection this policy makes between disclosure and the receipt of benefits/avoidance of poverty is completely iniquitous and potentially traumatising and damaging to survivors, as well as being morally indefensible in the choice it forces them to make between disclosure and poverty.”
— Brenna (@brennajessie_) April 6, 2017
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “This exception is crucial to protect women who are faced with very difficult circumstances.
“This reform ensures people on benefits have to make the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work.
“But we have always been clear this will be delivered in the most effective, compassionate way, with the right exceptions and safeguards in place.
“The policy was debated, and voted on, in Parliament, and the exceptions were consulted on widely.”