20 November 2018

Two child-limit in Universal Credit (held jointly with the APPG on Single Parent Families)

Two child-limit in Universal Credit (held jointly with the APPG on Single Parent Families)


The APPG on Universal Credit is a cross-party group, which was established in order for Members of Parliament of all parties to be able to come together to discuss the experiences of their own constituents, to receive advice and support from various agencies, to share best practice at supporting constituents and monitor this critical policy as it is rolled out.

The APPG accepts the core aims of Universal Credit (UC) in simplifying the benefits system and making it easier for people to move into work. The reality of UC, however, does not live up to these good intentions. We are seriously concerned that the design of UC does not sufficiently take into consideration the specific needs of the poorest working age people in the UK, and that in its current form, UC does not work in their best interest.

On 17 October 2018, the APPG held an evidence session on the Two-child limit in Universal Credit, hearing evidence from Child Poverty Action Group, the Church of England, Pearls of Peace women’s community group and the London School of Economics.

The following parliamentarians were present: Co-Chairs Ruth George (Chair of the Universal Credit APPG) and Rupa Huq (Co-chair of the Single Parent Families APPG) Mike Amesbury MP,Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Bambos Charalambous MP, Rosie Duffield MP, Alison McGovern MP, Alison Thewliss MP, Bishop of Oxford and Baroness Lister. Also present: Office of Debbie Abrahams, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Race Equality Foundation, Refuge, Refugee Council, Trussell Trust & Turn2us.


The APPG encourages organisations to tell claimants to contact MPs with their cases to raise in the Chamber. MPs should also visit their local refuges to see how the policy is impacting on services and clients. MPs present at the APPG evidence session agreed to apply for a parliamentary debate on the policy.



About Child Poverty Action Group

Child Poverty Action Group works to understand what causes poverty its impact on children’s lives, as well as developing and campaigning for solutions. They provide information, training and advice to the people who work with hard-up families, and carry out high profile legal work to establish and confirm families’ rights.

Overview of the Two-child limit

From April 2017 onwards, families having a third or subsequent child will have no entitlement to support for that child through child tax credit or Universal Credit (UC).

From February 2019, all households making a new claim for UC will also be subject to the two-child limit, irrespective of when their children were born.

  • 70,00 families and 250,00 children were affected in the first year.
  • 870, 000 families with 3 million children will be affected.
  • Two-thirds of affected families are expected to be in work.
  • Two-thirds are expected to only have 3 children.
  • The two-child limit is expected to push a further 200,000 children into poverty.

The policy is meant to change people’s behaviour – encouraging larger families to separate and stopping families blending together when people form new relationships. 

CPAG challenged the grounds of the policy being contrary to human rights and took the DWP to court in August 2017. The judgment did rule that children looked after by family members or adopted will not be considered for the purposes of the two-child limit.

However, we will be appealing the wider decision. The hearing will take place on 19th & 20th December 2018. 


Key Findings

60 Anglican Bishops co-signed a letter to The Times in April this year calling on the government to re-think the policy.

The Bishops in the House of Lords also spoke out against it when the legislation was going through the Lords in 2015-16.

There has been a system of support for low income working families for almost 50 years:

  • Family Income Supplement in 1970
  • Family Credit in 1986
  • Child Tax Credit in 2003

Under each system, larger families have been entitled to more support to reflect their greater need.

This policy is seeking to influence claimant’s behaviour and signal the government’s disapproval of certain life choices at the expense of meeting children’s basic needs.

The blessing of a child cannot anticipate the shock of a bereavement, relationship breakdown, or redundancy. The welfare state was designed to protect people from such events.

As result of this policy, families will be left without adequate support at some for the hardest times in their lives.

It is simply not right that some children get support and others don’t, penalising them through no fault of their own.

We share the concern of other faiths not here today, that this policy will have a disproportionate impact on certain faiths and ethnic communities.


About Pearls of Peace

Pearls of Peace is a women’s community group in Northampton. Its aims are to improve the welfare and education of especially Muslim women in the city, and to build bridges of understanding and cooperation between different nationalities and cultures.


The policy will add additional pressure on lower income families. Parents are already having to work 2 or more jobs. This will push men to work longer hours and women to work when they have 3 children.

We are worried that parents being unable to spend time with their children means they will have fewer Islamic morals and values leading to illegal activity. 

Children need stable families and more time with their parents – not less, for their mental and physical, as well as emotional and spiritual welfare.

There is also a pressure on Muslim families to limit their size. We, like the Church of England see children as a blessing.

Practically more children are carers for elderly, ill or disabled family members and vulnerable members of the community. Children also grow up, get educated and earn money to care for their families.


Key Findings                                                                                                  

There is a huge amount of research that the impact of children being brought up in low income families means they do less well in life.

Why does money make a difference?

  1. If families have more money they can spend them on things to make their children do well.
  2. Parents on low incomes experience high levels of stress which has an emotional impact on their children– it is difficult to parent when you have a low income.

We will be carrying out research of this policy as roll out of UC progresses. However, this is time wasted as we already know its impact on children’s futures.


The following concerns and recommendations were raised and made.


Currently families with 3 or more children cannot make a UC claim. However, these families will be able to make new UC claims from 1 February 2019 and will be subject to this policy.


I have been trying to get the results of the family test from DWP for this policy. The FOI I asked gave the details of the CPAG judgement. Members should also try to get the results of the family test.


We carried out a cumulative impact assessment of Universal Credit which the DWP are yet to do.


Following the APPG evidence session Alison Thewliss MP led a Westminster Hall debate on the Two-child limit on Tuesday 27 November.