The Government is being urged to lift the two-child limit in the wake of a sharp rise in new claims for Universal Credit caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in a new report published today.
An estimated 230,000 families and 860,000 children have been affected over the past three years by the two-child limit – which prevents parents from claiming Universal Credit or child tax credit for a third or subsequent child born from April 6 2017 – according to a joint Church of England and Child Poverty Action Group report.
In addition to this, around 60,000 families who have made a new claim for Universal Credit, having lost their jobs or seen a drop in their income since the start of the lockdown, will also be subject to the two-child limit, the report estimates.
Survey findings in the report, of 974 families who were claiming Universal Credit or tax credits and were affected by the two-child limit, mostly before the coronavirus outbreak, found widespread evidence of hardship.
The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said: “Whilst acknowledging the significant decisions made to improve support through Universal Credit in the wake of the coronavirus, we must highlight that families affected by the two-child limit are among the worst affected by the economic fallout of this pandemic – denied support for their children when they need it most.
“At a time like this, we understand more than ever that life is unpredictable, and that it is important to help one another through difficult times. The Government should lift the two-child limit and protect all children.”
Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham said: “As millions of families grapple with the deep financial impacts of COVID-19, the injustice of the two-child limit is being laid bare.
“Sadly, many parents who could comfortably support a third or subsequent child before the pandemic will be shocked to find that as their financial security falls away because of the virus and they are forced to rely on social security, there is no support in universal credit for their third or subsequent child– born in better times – only for his or her older siblings.
“That isn’t right. It is at odds with our shared belief that all children are equally entitled to support.
“The rationale for the two-child limit was that parents’ choices about family size should be based on their earnings, but the pandemic has exposed that reasoning as without foundation. No parent can see into the future with certainty – no parent could have seen COVID-19 coming.
“The two-child limit is arbitrary and very damaging for children. More than any other single policy, it is driving up child poverty in the UK – even before the effects of the pandemic, which will further increase hardship.
“The government has been quick to respond so far but further steps are needed and this policy should be suspended immediately to prevent more families – many of whom never expected to claim social security – from falling into real hardship.
“The evidence that the policy damages children and family life is there in our survey findings. The case for re-installing a safety net that can support every child – not just some – has never been clearer.”