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SNP attacks Tories as rape clause “excuse” remains unclear

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​DWP responds to MPs call to clarify controversial policy

Sustained pressure from MPs has forced the UK government to clarify its rape clause – the two-child benefit cap policy.

It comes as the House of Commons Petitions Committee told the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) its response to a 25,000 signature petition did not expalin how the policy would work in practice.

However MPs say the DWP’s attempt at clarification is still unclear.

SNP politicians in Westminster have led a concerted campaign against the rape clause which forces claimants who have been raped to name the father of their children in order to access benefits.

If they don’t they won’t be able to get benefits for more than two children.

The DWP said it would operate a "third-party model" so that women did not have to describe details of rape to a member of its staff.

Instead, women would talk to healthcare professionals, a social worker or an approved rape charity.

However a host of charities said they have no idea how that will work.

Alison Thewliss MP said: “It’s blatantly clear from the updated response that the government has offered up to this petition that they still do not understand the damage that they are inflicting on women and families through their dogmatic commitment to the two child cap.

"Analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that over 200,000 children will move into relative poverty by 2020 as a result of this repugnant policy.

"It’s simply unacceptable that women are being forced to relive the trauma of rape simply in order to make a benefit claim.

“Even with mounting criticism from charities, women’s aid groups and trade unions, it’s appalling that the government’s position on this matter hasn’t changed.

"What women and families need is for this policy to be abandoned in its entirety, not more hollow rhetoric from Whitehall that falls far short of addressing the problem”.

It’s appalling that the government’s position on this matter hasn’t changed - Alison Thewlis

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, who convenes Holyrood’s Equalities Committee, said: “If the DWP think that this updated response brushes the issue under the carpet, they are sorely mistaken.

"The chancellor has an opportunity in this month’s budget to scrap this vile policy once and for all – I strongly suggest that he takes it.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “This reform ensures people on benefits 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 safeguards in place.”