The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs, has called on the UK Government to lift the two-child benefit limit and “return to providing supporting for all children through the benefits system”.
In a damning final report on the controversial policy, which limits benefits to the first two children born into a household, the Committee says that Tory justifications for the two-child limit are based on assumptions that “simply do not hold true”.
The Government argues that families claiming benefits should face the same financial choices about having children as families who are supporting themselves solely through work.
But the WPSC says the distinction between families that are in work and those in receipt of benefits is “crude and unrealistic”.
The report concludes that: “It (the two-child limit) assumes that all pregnancies are planned, and in full knowledge of the Government’s social security policy. These assumptions simply do not hold true: in fact only a minority of third child pregnancies are planned.
“The distinction between families on benefits and those who are working is crude and unrealistic: anyone working today could lose their job, fall ill, be disabled, or be bereaved tomorrow: by the Government’s logic only the wealthy few with the financial resilience to withstand all of life’s misfortunes without recourse to the benefits system could ever responsibly decide to have more than two children.
“The suggestion that the policy might encourage parents to increase their incomes from work is not supported by the evidence the Committee has seen.
“In contrast, the absence of affordable childcare, as well as the costs of transport, make it all but impossible for some families to increase their working hours to compensate for their losses, or to get back into work after having a child.
“The Government’s own statistics show that there is no sharp distinction between households in receipt of benefits and those in work.”
The Committee heard evidence from a number of expert organisations and charities, including the Child Poverty Action Group, who told MPs that “you couldn’t design a policy better to increase child poverty”.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “Any family in this country, except the super-rich, could fall foul of the two-child limit if their circumstances changed for the worse.
“This is exactly why social security must act as a national insurance scheme covering people when they’re most exposed to hardship – not increase it.”