A damning new report has found that the controversial two-child benefit limit will push a million children into deeper poverty and is forcing pregnant women to consider terminations.
The report, published this week by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Church of England, highlights the devastating impact of the two-child limit on families who are already struggling to make ends meet.
An online survey of 438 families, conducted as part of the most detailed study into the affects of the policy two years after it was first introduced, found that the vast majority of thoses surveyed are cutting back on absolute essentials such as food and heating.
The two-child benefit limit restricts the child element of Universal Credit and Tax Credits to the first two children born into a family, with 59% of those affected coming from working households.
By 2023/24, 1.8 million children will be affected by the two-child limit and IPPR analysis has forecast that 300,000 more children will be pushed into poverty because of the policy.
The study also finds that a million children who already living in poverty-stricken homes will be pushed into even deeper poverty because of the two-child limit.
Parents reported having to cut back on daily essentials, whilst adding that their children have also gone without childhood “fundamentals’ like swimming and school trips.
One respondent to the survey said: “I don’t buy foods that I would like to buy, just food that’s close to nothing… I would have liked to get them fruit.
“I can’t remember the last time I made a fresh dinner, it’s all stuff I’ve got in my freezer”.
Another said: “My partner become ill and unable to work due to disability and I’m now at home having to care for him and our four children.
“Me and my partner are literally not eating at all during the day to feed the children.”
Another parent spoke about how they had to choose between feeding their children and paying the rent because of mounting debts.
A significant number of the women interviewed had had an unplanned pregnancy (often because contraception had failed) and some had felt obliged to consider a termination.
Janet (not her real name) a mum of three who is pregnant with her fourth child and whose husband works full time said: “I tried to go through a termination but we’re in turmoil now thinking how are we gonna cope.
“It’s a constant worry, you’re constantly writing stuff down and checking how much money you’ve got.”
A domestic abuse survivor felt forced to return to her abuser because the third child she was carrying would not be eligible for benefit support.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Here in the UK, we believe that every child should have the best start in life. This means access to free health care, a good education, and a childhood free from poverty.
“We wouldn’t turn away a sick child from our hospitals or stop them going to school and yet the two-child limit denies families the support they need from our social security system when they experience tough times, trapping kids in poverty.
“We need to help children thrive, by supporting parents to raise happy, healthy children – especially during the first years of a child’s life, when foundations are laid for their future development.
“It’s right to support families when they need it most. Our government should lift the two-child limit and help all children to thrive.”
The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said: “We believe that children are a blessing, not a burden – and that a third or fourth child is no less precious than the first or second.
“The Government’s two-child limit goes against this fundamental principle and is pushing many families and children into poverty. It is simply not right that some children get support and others don’t.
“The two-child limit must be lifted as part of a concerted effort to reverse the rise in child poverty.”
A Government spokesperson said: “This policy helps to ensure fairness by asking parents receiving benefits to face the same financial choices as those in work.
“Safeguards are in place and we’ve made changes this year to make the policy fairer.”