The UK Government has been urged to scrap its “cruel” two-child benefit limit after new research exposed the “grim reality” of the devastating impact on low-income parents and their children.
The controversial cap restricts social security payments, including universal credit and child benefit, to no more than two children per household, except in extreme circumstances such as if a third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape.
The joint report from the DWP and HMRC reveals that 161,000 households have been affected by the two-child limit, 59% of whom include a working adult.
Only 4% of affected families receive an exemption, including 510 women who were forced to disclose to the DWP that they had been raped.
According to the report, a staggering 592,000 children have been forced to go without vital financial support, with separate analysis predicting this number could reach 1.8 million by 2023.
The Child Poverty Action Group says one million of these will already be living below the poverty line, and will be pushed deeper into poverty by the “nasty policy”.
Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Alison Garnham said: “Every child deserves a good start in life, but today’s figures are a grim reminder of the human cost of this nasty policy, which says that some children are more deserving than others purely on the basis of their birth order – and which mostly affects working families.
“In the UK we would never turn a third-born child away from school or hospital. How can it be right to deny the same young children the support they need to enjoy a childhood free from poverty when their family falls on hard times?
“Our recent survey of over 400 affected families revealed the deep damage the policy has already done in just two years.
“Parents reported more conflict at home – even between siblings – as money worries rise and older children have to relinquish childhood fundamentals like football club, school trips and swimming lessons so that nappies, baby milk and bills can be paid for.
“Many parents had to borrow money each month to get by, and several had considered terminations when they found out about the policy after they became pregnant.
“The two-child limit undermines family life and leaves children without support in their vital early years, when the foundations are being laid for their future development.
“The government should lift the two-child limit to help all children thrive. ”
SNP MP Alison Thewliss said: “The Tory government’s own data on the two-child limit and rape clause paints a bleak picture and shows unequivocally that families are suffering financially as a result of the UK government’s obsession with austerity.
“This is a horrific legacy for any government. With a new Prime Minister in Number 10, it’s time for Boris Johnson to wake up to this reality, signal a change of direction from his predecessor on welfare and scrap this hated Tory policy.
“Most shocking of all, 510 women have been forced to go through the process of claiming for an exception due to a non-consensual conception. Every single one of these women has been put in a position where they’ve had to tell a complete stranger that their child was conceived as a result of rape or coercion, just to make ends meet.
“Of course, it’s likely that the actual figure would be much higher if women weren’t forced to go through this daunting process.
“The UK Government has no place to hide in the face of these damning statistics. I urge the new Prime Minister to do the right thing and scrap the two-child limit for everyone”.