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One in ten children across UK hit by two-child limit

This news post is about 1 year old

Over 80,000 children affected in Scotland alone.

Leading children’s charities have called on Westminster political leaders to remove “one of the biggest drivers of rising child poverty”. 

Groups including Child Poverty Action Group, Barnardo’s and Save the Children and the Children’s Commissioners for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have written to party leaders in the House of Commons demanding the removal of the two-child limit policy – as official figures out today show 1 in 10 children are now affected by the policy.

The policy, which took effect from 2017, is one of the biggest drivers of rising child poverty across the UK – up from 3.6million children below the poverty line in 2010/11 to 4.2m in 2021/22. 

In Scotland levels of child poverty have stabilised and Holyrood government policies, including the Scottish child payment, are expected to reduce child poverty further. Yet a quarter of a million children in Scotland are still living in poverty.

Today’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show 1.5m children (1 in 10) are affected by the limit, with over 80,000 of them living in Scotland.  

Most families (59%) subject to the policy are working, the DWP figures show.

The charities’ letter to the Westminster party leaders says failure to remove the policy “...will permit a cohort of children to grow up in poverty, to miss out on play, to be held back at school and denied a better future.  Children need the leaders of this country to protect their childhood and secure their futures and abolish the two-child limit.”

The charities cite the case of a couple-family with three children, in which the mother works full-time but her partner is currently too unwell to work. The family loses out on support worth £270 a month because of the two-child limit.  

The family struggled to keep up with rent payments and in June 2023 their landlord was granted an outright possession order to evict the family. 

When the case came to Child Poverty Action Group’s Early Warning System, the family had just 14 days to leave their home.

CPAG’s rolling survey of 3000+ parents affected by the policy reveals acute hardship among families who describe the day-to-day struggle of life under the two-child limit.

Removing the two-child limit would pull 250,000 children out of poverty overnight, up to 15 000 in Scotland alone, while 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty.

Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, John Dickie, said: “We’ve reached a tragic milestone with one in ten children across the UK now affected by this cruel tax on siblings. 

“We wouldn’t deny a third child NHS care or an education – how is it right to deny children much-needed support because of the brothers or sisters they have? The two-child limit is one of the most brutal policies of our times. 

“All this policy does is push more than a million children into poverty, or deeper poverty. It’s time for all Westminster party leaders to commit to removing the two-child limit before more children are harmed.

“In the meantime we urge the Scottish Government to mitigate it through additional payments of the Scottish child payment before it does more damage to children and to family life.”