More than a million children growing up in poverty under two-child benefits limit

“I am currently on maternity leave and can’t afford to stay at home for the full 39 weeks due to not receiving any extra help from tax credits as this is my 3rd child."

Children living in poverty

More than a million children in the UK are growing up in poverty, as result of the two-child limit for benefits, in what the Child Poverty Action group has slammed as this ‘nastiest of policies’.

The two-child limit restricts child allowances in universal credit (UC) and tax credits (worth up to £3,235 a year) to the first two children in a family, unless the children were born before April 2017 when the policy was introduced.

The cumulative impact of the limit means about 3 million children could be affected, with families losing out on up to £3,235 a year, the study found.

Submissions from more than 3,000 parents to the CPAG UK survey found widespread suffering and hardship among families affected by the policy.

CPAG says that the number of working families affected by the policy who report that it has affected their ability to pay for food has risen from 78% in 2021/22 to 87% in 2022/23. The rate among non-working households has consistently reached 90% since 2019.

The report highlights harrowing stories from parents struggling to make ends meet, including parents skipping meals and women forced to return to work when their babies are only a few months old because they cannot afford to pay bills.

One mother told the survey: “I am currently on maternity leave and can’t afford to stay at home for the full 39 weeks due to not receiving any extra help from tax credits as this is my 3rd child. I am struggling to buy food and heat the home whilst just on statutory maternity pay so I will have to return to work before my baby is 5 months old.”

Another said: “I now find myself struggling to put food on the table.  I couldn’t even bear to think what will happen when I run out of oil heating which i know will happen soon…  I’m really, really struggling.

“I work full time, my wife cares for our children and my elderly mother. We are doing everything right and yet we can’t afford the basics.”

CPAG says that abolishing the two-child limit would lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and a further 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty at cost of just £1.3 billion. 

Unless the policy is abolished, the number of children affected will reach 3 million, as more children are born under the policy.

Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said: “Six years to the day since this nastiest of policies came into effect, our survey is showing its devastating effects.  The two-child limit makes it impossible for parents to provide their children with essentials – and the cost of living crisis is adding extra pain. The number of children in poverty rose by 350,000 last year – and the two-child limit played a big part in that rise. There is no place for this policy in a country that believes all children deserve a good start. Ministers must remove it before it does more damage to children and to family life.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

Comments are closed.