‘Pernicious’ government cuts to Universal Credit (UC), which come into force for new claims on Thursday 6 April, will push a further 200,000 children below the official poverty line, campaigners have warned today.
Analysis by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows that limiting UC to the first two children means that parents, many of whom are in employment, are set to miss out on thousands of pounds per year.
Working families with three children will be the hardest hit, losing up to £2,780 per year as a direct result of the changes and affecting around two-thirds of all those hit by changes.
In total, the analysis estimates that 850,000 families with more than two children are likely to be affected, two-thirds of whom are working families. The policy will also affect new Child Tax Credit claims.
The child element of universal credit is currently £277.08 per month for a first or only child and £231.67 per month for second and other children.
CPAG says the cuts could create disincentives for single parents to form new, ‘blended families’, and undermine the rights of conscientious or religious parents who object to birth control.
It could also penalise children in separated families who switch the parent they live with – for example to be with siblings from a certain age, or to remain in their school if one parent moves from its catchment area.
And women who conceive a third or subsequent child as a result of rape will have to prove what happened if they wish to escape the two-child cap, which CPAG says could breach their privacy rights.
Children from large families are at greater risk of poverty. An estimated 39% of children in families with three or more children live in poverty after housing costs are accounted for, compared with 26% for those in families with only one or two children.
Official poverty statistics released by the government last month revealed that 100,000 more children slipped into poverty in 2015-16, taking the UK total to around 4 million. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that this is likely to continue rising in coming years, increasing by 50% by 2021.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:”This is a particularly pernicious cut because it suggests some children matter more than others.
“It’s also illogical because no parent has a crystal ball. Families that can comfortably support a third child today could struggle tomorrow and have to claim universal credit because, sadly, health, jobs and relationships can fail.
“Our analysis shows another 200,000 children will be in poverty once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, directly because of this cut.
“Surely children should not have their life chances damaged because of the number of siblings they have.”