Parents are cutting back on fresh food, building up debts and being forced to drop children’s activities like swimming lessons because of the two-child Universal Credit and tax credit limit, a new study suggests.
Research on the impact of the two-child limit reveals the “scale of suffering” in families affected by the policy.
The research, published by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England, documents the “toll” the policy is taking on family life in low-income households.
The report includes a projection that one million children who already live in poverty will be pushed further below the poverty line by the time Universal Credit is fully rolled out in 2023/24, as a result of the two-child policy.
A survey of more than 430 families affected by the policy found that some parents felt “shame” at not being able to provide for their children’s needs.
One parent said she could not afford to buy fruit, another had amassed debt, while one couple said they did not eat during the day.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “We wouldn’t turn away a sick child from our hospitals or stop them going to school, and yet the two-child limit denies families the support they need from our social security system when they experience tough times, trapping kids in poverty.
“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 foundations are laid for their future development.
“It’s right to support families when they need it most. Our government should lift the two-child limit and help all children to thrive.”
The Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said: “We believe that children are a blessing, not a burden, and that a third or fourth child is no less precious than the first or second.
“The Government’s two-child limit goes against this fundamental principle and is pushing many families and children into poverty.
“It is simply not right that some children get support and others don’t.
“The two-child limit must be lifted as part of a concerted effort to reverse the rise in child poverty.”
The two-child limit restricts the child element in Universal Credit and tax credits to the first two children.
A Government spokesman said: “This policy helps to ensure fairness by asking parents receiving benefits to face the same financial choices as those in work. Safeguards are in place and we’ve made changes this year to make the policy fairer.
“Tackling poverty remains a priority – we’re spending £95 billion a year on welfare and providing free school meals to more than a million children. We’re supporting families to improve their lives through employment and latest figures show there are 667,000 fewer children living in workless households since 2010.”