2 May 2024
Two-Child Policy

Supporting families and helping parents into work requires a balanced system that provides support for those who need it, but that also ensures a sense of fairness to the taxpayer and many working families who do not see their incomes rise when they have more children.

The previous benefits structure, which adjusted automatically to family size, was unsustainable. Moreover, the latest statistics show that 78 per cent of families on Universal Credit (UC) had fewer than three children. I understand that the Government therefore feels it is proportionate to provide support through Child Tax Credit and UC for a maximum of two children. The same policy does not apply to help with childcare costs, passported benefits (for example, free school meals), additional support for any disabled children or Child Benefit.

I do recognise that some people are not able to make the same choices about the number of children in their family, and I welcome the full support for third and subsequent children born after April 2017 in certain circumstances. This includes children cared for by family or close friends under kinship care arrangements, children adopted from local authority care, and multiple births. 

Child Poverty - 

While I note your concerns about this policy, I would like to assure you that the Government is taking action to reducing poverty, including child poverty, and supporting low-income families. The Government's focus remains firmly on supporting people, including parents, to move into and progress in work. This approach is based on clear evidence about the importance of employment - particularly where it is full-time - in substantially reducing the risks of poverty. The latest statistics show that in 2021/22 children living in workless households were 5 times more likely to be in absolute poverty, after housing costs, than those where all adults work.

Following the Spring Budget 2023, the Government announced that it will increase the Universal Credit childcare cap to £951 for one child (up from £646) and £1,630 for two children (up from £1,108). The Government is also providing much needed additional support with upfront childcare costs when parents on Universal Credit move into work or increase their working hours. Additionally, the Government have announced that all working parents in England will be able to access 30 hours of free childcare per week, for 38 weeks of the year, from when their child is 9 months old to when they start school. This will be rolled out in stages from April 2024.

More broadly, the Government understands the pressures people are facing with the cost of living which is why they are providing total support of over £94 billion over 2022-23 and 2023-24 to help households and individuals with the rising bills.  For 2023/24, this included £300 of Cost of Living Payments for pensioners, a £150 Cost of Living Payment for those on disability benefits, and up to £900 of Cost of Living Payments for those on means-tested benefits, including Child Tax Credit.

I hope this reassures you that the Government is taking action to support the most vulnerable.

Non-consensual conceptions - 

There is also an important exception for non-consensual conceptions. This exception is not tied to the criminal justice system and no one will be asked to provide evidence to their Work Coach or Caseworker. Where there is an existing conviction for rape or coercive control, or an award made under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (or Northern Ireland equivalent), the exception will be applied straight away. Where this is not available, the claimant will be asked to contact a third-party professional – who can be a healthcare professional, social worker or approved support worker – with whom they may already be in contact. This third-party professional will confirm that the claimant’s circumstances, as described by them, are consistent with the criteria for this exception. The third-party professional will not be judging the credibility of the claimant’s statement nor require any further evidence. I believe this strikes the right balance, making sure people get the support they need without the need for unnecessary intrusive processes.

Planned Extension - 

I welcome that the planned extension of the two-child policy on UC for children born before April 2017 was not implemented. All children born before that date continue to be supported by UC. This will ensure the two-child policy retains its fundamental fairness.