Women’s organisations Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, and Rape Crisis Scotland have sent a joint letter to Damian Hinds, Minister of State for the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK Tory Government, seeking urgent clarification on a number of unanswered questions about the operation of the ‘rape clause’ – or ‘non-consensual conception’ exemption to the recently introduced two child cap.

The welfare changes, which were announced in 2015 and came into effect from 6 April, limit tax credits to the first two children in a family. With the exception of the Tories, the policies have been widely condemned, with strong and continued calls for their immediate repeal.

The letter sets out ten unanswered questions in total, including: ‘Have any third-party referrers in Scotland been confirmed?’; ‘How will third-party referrers be trained in responding to disclosures?’; ‘How will DWP staff assess applications for exemption on the grounds on ‘non-consensual conception?’, and “What is the appeals process for applications that have been declined?”

A copy of the letter has also been sent to Scotland Minister for Social Security, Jeane Freeman, and to Sandra White MSP, the Convenor of Holyrood’s Social Security Committee.

Commenting, Ruth said:

“Profound concerns have been raised about the immorality and unworkability of the rape clause from the day it was announced and it is shocking that it has gone ahead.

One month since its introduction, there are still many serious unanswered questions about its implementation and about the traumatic impact it will have on women and their children.

The Scottish Tories continue to claim the rape clause is the most sensitive way to administer the exemption, but in reality, there is no sensitive way to force a woman to prove that she has been raped in order to obtain the support she needs to feed her family.

The Scottish Tories also claim that professional third parties will help women to apply for the rape clause exemption, but, as is clear from this letter, trusted women’s organisations Scotland find the rape clause so morally appalling and so damaging to their role as support organisations that they can’t, and won’t, administer it. They won’t be used as tools to get the UK government off the hook.

I look forward to reading what the UK Tories have to say in their response to these serious outstanding questions, and commend Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, and Rape Crisis Scotland for continuing to hold the UK Government to account over this utterly immoral policy.”