THE NUMBER OF UK CHILDREN affected by the two-child limit in social security has reached 1.3 million (8.7 per cent or one in 12 children) new DWP figures show. This includes all children in a family where the limit has been applied, rather than only those third or subsequent children who are ineligible for child allowances in universal credit and tax credits under the policy
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Benefit Changes and Larger Families project warn that as living costs surge, the policy’s damaging impact on children will intensify – putting the futures of one in twelve children on the line.
The first instalment of the £650 cost-of-living emergency payment will bring limited comfort to those affected by the two-child limit, since the flat-rate payment takes no account of children in a household and therefore, like the limit, bears no relation to families’ needs.
A Briefing published by the Benefit Changes and Larger Families project reports parents’ experiences of both the two-child limit and the benefit cap. One mother affected by the limit told researchers that she can’t afford new shoes for her one year old: “[One year old daughter] was in size four shoes and she had her feet measured the other day and she’s a six, so for the last two months she’s been wearing shoes that are two sizes too small, but I couldn’t do anything about it…it’s not even Clarks shoes she’s getting, it’s….. cheap and cheerful.”
Another parent was unable to replace her child’s broken bed: “The end of the bed, it just broke. So we tried to fix it for the time being because we couldn’t buy a bed immediately, so we tried to see… if we can put something on it, like a piece of wood, we’ll see if it stays the same but it didn’t, so we knew it were ready to go out to the tip. But it took a few weeks and… it’s not good for their health because the way they’re sleeping is not right, it’s not good. I can’t explain it; it’s a bit like when you’re going down a slide, that’s how you sleep.”
The cost of living crisis has left some parents fearful of whether they will cope with ongoing price rises. One parent subject to the two-child limit said: “If anything, I think it’s about to get worse…things are going up high, … so, you know, that is worrying … I don’t think there is any hope at the moment.”
The two-child limit restricts child allowances in universal credit and tax credits worth £2,935 per year to the first two children in a family unless the children were born before 6th April 2017 when the policy came into force. The new DWP statistics reveal that the policy affects 360,000 families, 59 per cent of whom are working.
The two-child limit is one of the biggest drivers of rising child poverty. By 2026/27, over 50 per cent of children in families with more than two children are forecast to be in poverty.
Kate Andersen from the Benefit Changes and Larger Families project said: “Our research indicates the serious and significant harms the two-child limit is causing affected children. These harms affect all of the children in a household where the two-child limit is being applied, which we today learn numbers one in twelve children. While parents do all they can to stop children from being impacted by the two-child limit, the policy makes it almost impossible for affected families to meet basic needs.
“The policy creates social and emotion harms, and can increase tensions within the household. We know that these harms are likely to have long-term negative consequences for children’s physical health, social, behavioural and emotional development, cognitive development and school achievement. There is a simple, research-led solution: abolish the two-child limit, and end a policy that drives and deepens child poverty.”
The Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: “The two-child limit is piling on the pain for affected families. It forces families to survive on less than they need, pushes them deeper and deeper into poverty as costs rise – and today’s emergency cost-of-living payment does nowhere near enough to pull them back. One in twelve children are taking the consequences of this brutal policy – their health, development and well-being are being jeopardised. If every child matters– not just some – the policy must be abolished.”
On 8 July, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, brought forward his Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill, to be debated in the House of Lords. Calling for the limit to be abolished, the Bishop said: “It is clear to me that this policy is ineffective, devastating in impact and essentially immoral in character.” The Bill is currently at the Committee stage in the House of Lords.
* The Benefit Changes and Larger Families project briefing is available to download here.
* Read or watch the Bishop of Durham’s speech in the House of Lords here.
* More information on the Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill here.