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Two-child limit shames us all

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two-child policy, UK children in poverty, Universal Credit, Unhappy Birthday, report, End Child PovertyTwo-child limit and the freeze on children’s benefits ‘the most damaging welfare reform on children’s outcomes’.

Statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently showed that 71,000 families lost entitlement to child allowances in tax credits or universal credit in the first year of the ‘two-child policy’.

The ‘two-child limit’ for child tax credit and universal credit came into force on 6 April 2017. It means that families who claim tax credits or Universal Credit and have a third or subsequent child born after 6 April 2017 are no longer be able to claim a child element for this child or any future children.

The child element is worth up to £2,780 per year – £232 per month – and until the policy came into effect was payable for all children in low-income families, to help protect them from poverty.

And worse still, families who make a new claim for universal credit from 1 February 2019 will only receive the child element for two children per family, even if the children were born before April 2017.

There are 4 exceptions to this 2-child ruling, and the DWP figures released in June 2018 also showed that 2,900 households received an exception for a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017: 2,440 of these received an exception for multiple births, 270 for a child in non-parental care, and 190 for ‘non-consensual conception’. To date no households have received the exception for adoption.

A report, ‘Unhappy Birthday: the two-child limit at one year’ written by End Child Poverty coalition members, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England, and published in April this year, warned that the full impact of the policy had yet to be seen.

But, it said, even after only the first year of implementation, around 160,000 families with new-born babies are now up to £2,780 a year worse off than if their youngest child had been born in the previous year.

And from February next year, the two-child limit will also apply to families with three or more children who fall on hard times and make a new claim for Universal Credit – irrespective of when their children were born.

So by 2020/21, an estimated 640,000 families, including around 2 million children, will be affected by this policy.

The End Child Poverty coalition’s report argues that the two-child limit combined with the freeze on children’s benefits is the most damaging welfare reform on children’s outcomes, driving the sharp projected rise in child poverty over the next few years.

The chief executive Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: “Our analysis with IPPR last year found 200,000 children will be pulled into poverty by the two-child limit.

“[These] DWP statistics now show it’s already having a damaging impact – and at a fast pace.

“These are struggling families, most of them in work, who will lose up to £2,780 a year – a huge amount if you’re a parent on low pay.

“An estimated one in six UK children will be living in a family affected by the two-child limit once the policy has had its full impact.

“It’s a pernicious, poverty-producing policy.

“Even when times are tough, parents share family resources equally among their children, but now the government is treating some children as less deserving of support purely because of their order of birth.

“Having older siblings should not mean that a child misses out on support.”

And she pointed out that sixty Bishops from the Church of England and senior representatives from other Christian, Jewish and Muslim organisations have already said the policy should be reconsidered, and added: “We again urge Ministers to review the policy in the interests of family life.”

Not to mention the future of children in this country.

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