LEADING children’s charities and the Children’s Commissioners for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have written to party leaders in the House of Commons demanding the removal of the two-child limit policy, as official figures show that one in 10 children are now affected by the policy.

The policy, which took effect from 2017, is one of the biggest drivers of rising child poverty – up from 3.6 million children below the poverty line in 2010/11 to 4.2 million in 2021/22.

New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show 1.5 million children, (one in 10) are affected by the limit and that most families (59 per cent) subject to the policy are in work.

The charities’ letter to party leaders says failure to remove the policy “…will permit a cohort of children to grow up in poverty, to miss out on play, to be held back at school and denied a better future. Children need the leaders of this country to protect their childhood and secure their futures and abolish the two-child limit.”

The charities cite the case of a couple-family with three children, in which the mother works full-time but her partner is currently too unwell to work. The family loses out on support worth £270 a month because of the two-child limit. The family struggled to keep up with rent payments and in June 2023 their landlord was granted an outright possession order to evict the family. When the case came to Child Poverty Action Group’s Early Warning System, the family had just 14 days to leave their home.

CPAG’s rolling survey of 3000+ parents affected by the policy reveals acute hardship among families who describe the day-to-day struggle of life under the two-child limit.

“We have to choose between food and clothing or electric. I didn’t know I was pregnant with my youngest until week 27 and gave birth at week 31. She was in intensive care for six weeks. She needs specialist milk. It’s hard to get clothes small enough to fit her as they are very expensive” (Single mother with three children, in work.)

“I am having to ration food in the house to afford baby milk. My bills have gone up and I cannot always afford to pay them on time so I am having to ask family to help.” (Mother in a couple with three children, in work.)

“My youngest was unplanned, I’ve had to find work and leave my baby at four months old. There’s no chance of affording the rent for a bigger home so one child sleeps in living room and one in with me.” (Single mother with three children, in work)

Removing the two-child limit would pull 250,000 children out of poverty overnight while 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty.

Commenting on the new DWP figures, the Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: “We’ve reached a tragic milestone with one in [ten] children now affected by this cruel tax on siblings. We wouldn’t deny a third child NHS care or an education – how is it right to deny children much-needed support because of the brothers or sisters they have? The two-child limit is one of the most brutal government policies of our times. All this policy does is push more than a million children into poverty, or deeper poverty. Party leaders must commit to removing the two-child limit before more children are harmed.”

Rocio Cifuentes, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales said: “I’m gravely concerned about the impact of child poverty in Wales, and I’ve continuously called on the Welsh Government to plan and monitor specific and measurable actions to help the huge numbers of children who are affected. But it is clear that UK Government are responsible for the main levers of financial support for families living in poverty.

“There are obvious changes that the UK Government could and should make to welfare payments, which would instantly put more money in the pockets of thousands of families. This includes getting rid of the two-child limit, which effectively punishes children for having more than one sibling, depriving them of their human rights to a good standard of living, health, and development. This is a cruel policy that must be scrapped.”

* Read the full text of the letter here.

* The Department for Work and Pensions statistics are available here.

* Source: Child Poverty Action Group