The Two Child Benefit Limit – UNhappy birthday?

Birthday cake on the floor
Helen Ganney
Helen Ganney


External Affairs Relationship Manager


In the seven years since the two child benefit limit was introduced, we take a look to see if it has had the effect the Government aimed for. 

Through removing the two-child limit, each and every child will be valued, and children will no longer be reduced to a number, but be seen as individuals with worth and potential” — Bishop of Durham at the Third Reading stage of his Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill in March. 

Last week marked the seventh anniversary of the Two Child Limit. This policy, introduced in April 2017, is a cap on Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit. The limit prevents parents from claiming benefits for a third or subsequent child born after it was introduced. 

On the limit’s birthday’, Child Poverty Action Group marked it by sending a giant unhappiest of Birthdays’ card to the DWP, stating that the policy pushes families into poverty and must be scrapped’.

For parents who have a six year old or under with 2 older siblings, being unable to claim an increased benefit income has a huge impact on the family’s finances. Sometimes called a sibling tax’, it tightens a household’s income, even for those with one or both parents in work. 

In CAP’s recent polling carried out by YouGov, we found that nearly half (43%) of families with 3 or more children are finding it hard to keep up with their bills, and one fifth (19%) have debts that they don’t know how they are going to pay. 

It’s plain that families with 3 or more children would need more income to cover their costs, and any credit commitment would feel more challenging, causing them to fall into a cycle of debt and poverty.

CAP is working to end UK poverty, we are clear about that and, as part of this, we can see that there are factors in the current system that are pushing families to the limit. To reach an end to UK poverty as a society we need to address the drivers of poverty and, as individuals, we need to be campaigning to ensure that this change comes quickly. 

We have joined forces with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust to call for an essentials guarantee. We are asking all political parties within this election year to promise that every household in the UK will have an income that is enough to cover the essentials.

Additionally, CAP is asking that the two child limit be removed, or at the very least increased to three children, so that every household, working or not, can cover all their bills. In a fair and just society, all households, no matter their makeup, should be able to thrive and live well. 

A Government spokesperson recently claimed that The two-child policy is about fairness, asking families on benefits to make the same financial decisions as families supporting themselves solely through work, and safeguards are in place to protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances.

However, the reality we see is that 1.5 million children are being pushed further into poverty by this policy. So we’d love for you to join us and together raise our voices to ask for a change to this policy that is pushing UK households down a path to poverty. Join us via our website.