Bishop of Durham: The Government must reverse the two-child limit policy and help all children to thrive
The Bishop of Durham writes following his House of Lords question on the impact of the two-child limit on the per-child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit payments on child poverty and child development'.
April 6th was the second anniversary of the ‘two-child limit’, which restricts the amount of support for low income households who have a third or subsequent child. As a result of this policy, around 150,000 families with young children under two years old are now £50 a week worse off, locking kids in poverty during the most crucial years of their lives. Every day, 200 more families are impacted by this policy.
The stories we are collecting through an online survey with CPAG and Entitledto show the policy’s impact on these families. One parent, whose partner left her whilst she was pregnant with her third child, told us that she barely eats for days at a time to make sure her children have food. Her children cannot go to birthday parties or join in school trips, so they are missing out on friendships and experiences that are a vital part of a healthy childhood. Other parents are telling us they cannot afford basic items like baby milk, nappies, clothes for their children or bus fares for them to get to school.
In January, Amber Rudd, the secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced that the two-child limit would not be extended to new Universal Credit claimants with children born before April 2017, as originally planned. However, the two-child limit continues to apply to third or subsequent children born after that date. If this policy is unchanged, then it will eventually affect around 900,000 families.
Here in the UK, we believe that every child should have the best start in life. That means access to free healthcare, a good education, and a childhood free from poverty. We wouldn’t turn away a sick child from our hospitals or stop them going to school. So, it’s not right that the two-child limit denies families the support they need from our welfare system when they are going through difficult times.
Another parent of three children, who responded to our survey, said that he is treading a fine line between sinking and swimming – unable to take a day off work even when he is ill, because their financial situation is so tight. The impact on his and his wife’s mental health is putting strain on the whole family. We need to help children thrive, by supporting parents to raise happy, healthy children - especially during the first years of a child’s life when the building blocks are being laid for their future development.
According to new research by the Child Poverty Action Group, the two-child limit will tip 300,000 children into poverty over the next few years, and push many more children even deeper into poverty. By 2021/22, more than half of children in families with three or more children are projected to be living in poverty.
My question this week asks the Government to assess the impact of the two-child limit on child poverty and child development, in order to highlight the potential harm this policy is doing, before many more families are affected by it. It’s not too late to right this wrong. Our Government can lift the two-child limit, helping all children to thrive.
The Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham has been a member of the House of Lords since 2014.