Universal Credit two-child limit will push 300,000 more children into poverty

300,000 more UK children children are at risk of being plunged into poverty by the time Universal Credit is fully rolled out in 2023-2024, campaigners have warned today.

The cruel policy restricts child allowances in Universal Credit and Tax Credits to the first two children in a family, and has so far affected an estimated 150,000 families with children aged under two.

43% of children in families with three or more children already live below the poverty line, compared to a 30% child poverty rate overall.


A near empty food cupboard. Photo: Oxfam.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warns that many of these families and their children will be pushed into hardship by the two-child limit.

Campaigners add that two-thirds of families hit by the policy will be in work.

Families who were not claiming Tax Credits or Universal Credit when they decided to have their third child will also be affected if they fall on hard times, such as becoming unable to work due to illness or losing their partner.

According to CPAG, a single parent with three children working 16 hours/week on the ‘national living wage’ of £8.21 per hour would have to more than double their hours to 37 per week to compensate for the effect of the two-child limit. And even more if childcare is needed.

CPAG also claim the policy breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and unlawfully discriminates against children, because it no longer treats them as worthy of individual consideration for entitlement to subsistence benefits.

A Trussell Trust foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

Chief Executive of CPAG Alison Garnham said: “As a country we believe that every child deserves support especially in the earliest years of life but the two-child policy denies support for some children on the basis of how many older siblings they have. That isn’t right.

“The Government recognises that investment in the early years is crucial for children’s development.

“Yet the result of current policies is that the face of poverty is getting younger – with the latest figures showing that 53% of poor children are aged under five.

“It’s right that the Work and Pensions Secretary decided not to apply the policy to children born before it was introduced but the policy is harming infants now – if it’s wrong for older children, it’s wrong for the babies and toddlers it’s affecting now.

“The two-child policy is out of step with our national commitment to children and to family life.

“It is foisting misery on families, with parents telling us they can’t afford basics like baby milk, nappies, clothes for their children or transport to take sick children to medical appointments.

“It should be abolished in line with our shared belief that every child matters.”

Jobcentre Plus sign.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “The two child policy ensures fairness between claimants and taxpayers who support themselves solely through work.

“Appropriate exceptions and safeguards are in place and we recently announced that the policy won’t be applied retroactively for children born before 6 April 2017.

“We remain determined to tackling child poverty and we’re taking action to help families with the cost of living, including increasing the national living wage and doubling free childcare for three and four year olds.”

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