Union vows to back social workers who refuse to toe line on benefit 'rape clause'
The Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers (NIASW) has pledged to support any member who is disciplined for refusing to engage with the so-called Universal Credit "rape clause" on ethical grounds.
The organisation has published guidance for its members urging them to use their professional judgment when deciding whether to assist people applying under the controversial benefits measure.
Since April, applications for Universal Credit have been capped at two children per family.
But there is an exemption in the case of children conceived as a result of a non-consensual sexual act - hence the term "rape clause".
A woman seeking to claim Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit for a third or additional child under exemption is required to have her application verified by an 'approved' third party such as a social worker.
NIASW Country Manager Carolyn Ewart said: "It is unethical and degrading to subject a woman to disclose an incident of rape to a social worker to access benefits.
"Social workers who are informed of a rape as part of a Universal Credit application which the woman doesn't want reported to the police, will face a troubling ethical dilemma.
"However, they must report the crime to the PSNI if they are to avoid the risk of prosecution.
"NIASW will continue to campaign for the removal of the two-child cap."