Fury as new figures show majority of parents hit by DWP's 'cruel' two-child benefit cap are in work
Almost two-thirds of the parents affected by the Conservatives' two-child welfare cap are in work, official figures have revealed.
The two-child limit was introduced by former Chancellor George Osborne and came into force in 2017.
It curbs access to child tax credits and other means-tested benefits for any further children born after April 2017.
New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC reveal that 156,540 households have so far been refused benefits in the two years since the clampdown came into force - with 592,000 children living in homes hit by the cap.
The DWP says the policy "aims to ensure fairness between claimants of benefits and those who support themselves solely through work".
But the stats also reveal that the majority - 59% - of those affected by the curb are in work, prompting fury from opposition parties and campaigners who say it undermines the stated point of the limit.
Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood branded the two-child limit "a cruel policy that punishes children".
The frontbencher said: “These figures destroy the Tories’ claim that this is about fairness, as nearly 60 per cent of the families hit by the two child limit are in work."
The SNP's Alison Thewliss said the figures were "horrific", as she urged Boris Johnson to ditch the policy.
"With a new Prime Minister in Number 10, it’s time for Boris Johnson to wake up to this reality, signal a change of direction from his predecessor on welfare and scrap this hated Tory policy," the MP said.
Meanwhile Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Every child deserves a good start in life, but today’s figures are a grim reminder of the human cost of this nasty policy, which says that some children are more deserving than others purely on the basis of their birth order - and which mostly affects working families."
She added: "In the UK we would never turn a third-born child away from school or hospital. How can it be right to deny the same young children the support they need to enjoy a childhood free from poverty when their family falls on hard times?"
The new figures also reveal that 510 women were made to fill out a form showing that their child was conceived through rape or as part of a coercive relationship in a bid to trigger an exemption from the policy.
The move - which was been dubbed the 'rape clause' by critics - covers what the DWP calls "non-consensual conception". Such cases made up eight percent of those granted an exemption from the policy.
Other exemptions from the policy are in place for those adopting children who would otherwise be in council care or where parents have exceed the limit through having twins or triplets.
Ms Thewliss said the findings on 'non-consensual' conceptions were "shocking".
"Every single one of these women has been put in a position where they’ve had to tell a complete stranger that their child was conceived as a result of rape or coercion, just to make ends meet," she said.
“Of course, it’s likely that the actual figure would be much higher if women weren’t forced to go through this daunting process.
“The UK Government has no place to hide in the face of these damning statistics. I urge the new Prime Minister to do the right thing and scrap the two-child limit for everyone."
A government spokesman said: “This policy ensures fairness by asking families receiving benefits to face the same financial choices as families supporting themselves solely through work.
"Safeguards are in place and we’ve made changes this year to make the policy fairer.”