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The two-child limit: judicial review granted

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CPAG, Child Poverty Action Group, two-child limit, judicial review, “Anyone with an ounce of humanity can see how toxic and ill thought out this policy is.”

Permission has just been granted for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) to apply for judicial review of the two-child limit and the case will now go forward to a full hearing.

On 6 April 2017, new rules set out in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, came into force limiting the child element of child tax credit (CTC) and Universal Credit (UC) awards to two children.

In child tax credit, this limit only applies to a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017; in Universal Credit the limit applies from 6 April 2017 irrespective of when the child was born, although transitional protection applies to third or subsequent children born before 6 April 2017.

There are a limited number of exceptions to this two-child limit; it does not apply to a third or subsequent child in the following circumstances: multiple births, adoption from local authority care, kinship care and children likely to have been conceived as a result of rape or a coercive or controlling relationship.

This ‘rape clause’ element has prompted a vehement reaction from women’s rights campaigners, Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis groups, who argue it is inhumane to oblige traumatised women to explain the circumstances of a rape as part of a benefits claim.

An eight-page form has to be filled in to apply for this particular exemption and women are obliged to sign a declaration saying they were raped or otherwise coerced into sex, to give the ensuing child’s name, and to then confirm they do not live with the rapist.

Women’s aid charities say this last element fails to take into account that most rapes occur within domestic violence relationships.

Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP who first campaigned against this clause, has described it as “one of the most inhumane and barbaric policies ever to emanate from Whitehall”.

And she told the Guardian she welcomed the upcoming legal case.

“The two-child limit is ideologically driven and will only plunge more families in to poverty. It is in breach of the UK’s obligation under the UN convention on the rights of the child,” she said.

“It is estimated that around 250,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of this measure by the end of the decade, representing a 10 per cent increase in child poverty.

“Add to this the despicable rape clause, whereby women have to prove they have been raped just to put food on the table.

“Anyone with an ounce of humanity can see how toxic and ill thought out this policy is.”

Furthermore, the principal policy justification for the limit is logically flawed.

In its impact assessment, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the two-child limit was to ‘ensure that the benefits system is fair to those who pay for it, as well as those who benefit from it, ensuring those on benefits face the same financial choices around the number of children they can afford as those supporting themselves through work.’

However, 70 per cent of those claiming tax credits are already working – a figure which severely undermines such a purported ‘fairness objective’.

Not only are an estimated more than 250,000 children to be pushed into poverty as a result of this measure by the end of the decade, a similar number of children already living in poverty will fall deeper into poverty.

Given such a severe impact on child poverty, the policy is in breach of the UK’s obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to give primary consideration to the best interests of the child.

In these circumstances, the discriminatory treatment cannot be justified.

On 18 August 2017 CPAG issued a claim for judicial review in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to challenge this two-child limit. This has now been enabled to go forward.

Carla Clarke, a solicitor for CPAG, speaking to the Guardian, said the two-child limit put “women in particular in invidious positions about the choices they have to make” and thus breached the right to family life.

“You have the government saying this is about people making rational decisions on whether they have more children,” she continued.

“But if birth control fails it puts a woman in the position of deciding if they continue with the pregnancy, knowing the child will not bring any more child tax credits into the family, or have an abortion.

“There’s a lot of women who might not have any particular religious persuasion but, as a fundamental ethical matter, will not entertain abortion.

“To put women through that is unbelievable.”

  1. SInead mallett says:

    Im glad groups are taking this action to stand up for women, children and families which will undoubtedly be plunge further into poverty.
    Already struggling families will be pushed to deeper levels of poverty which is inhumane for a Western Society.
    Not to mention make already traumatised women have to narrate their trauma in order to make a claim for benefits.
    The Tory party continually uses policies to keep a huge gap between rich and poor: they’re not interested in an emerging middle class they are only interested in lining their own pockets and keeping their elitist status.
    Another point particularly in NI is the social work profession which is already seen in a poor light with negative media coverage and current Tory policies that they will be prosecuted should they fail to report a crime – this would cause additional harm to families and particularly the women forcing a situation that she may have to answer questions about a crime she is not wanting to, willing to or ready to report.
    In what world can the social work profession build partnerships with families if having to adhere to these types if draconian policies?

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