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Illustrated image of a family of three who will be affected by the two child cap. Two child cap - what other support is available to struggling families
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calendar icon17 Jun 2024

Over half a million more kids to be affected by two child cap in next 5 years

A leading think tank has warned that an extra 670,000 children will be worse off over the next five years because of the two-child benefit cap if the policy remains unchanged. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicts that the number of children affected by the cap, which restricts child benefits to the first two children in most households, will reach 670,000 by the end of the next parliament.

Pressure mounts on Labour to scrap the cap

The analysis by the IFS increases pressure on the Labour Party, should they get into power, with campaigners urging for the policy to be abolished. The two child benefit cap, introduced by the Conservative government in 2017, has been widely criticised for pushing thousands of children into poverty.

Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, is among those who have called on Labour to drop the cap. Surprisingly, even some figures on the right, such as former home secretary Suella Braverman and Reform leader Nigel Farage, have also called for an end to it. 

Cap affects one in five children and hits poorest households hardest

The IFS predicts that when fully rolled out, the two-child cap will affect one in five children, rising to 38% for those in the poorest fifth of households. Families impacted by the cap are expected to lose an average of £4,300 per year - or 10% of their income.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, says that the two child limit is the "biggest driver" of child poverty in the UK. She urges any government serious about improving the lives of the next generation to "scrap the two-child limit and do so quickly."

Labour's Response: Making a start

In response to the findings, a Labour spokesperson acknowledged the scale of the task ahead if they win the election. The party has outlined initial steps they would take, such as providing free breakfast clubs in every primary school, reducing fuel poverty and energy bills, banning exploitative zero-hours contracts, ensuring work pays, ending no-fault evictions, and creating more quality jobs across the country.

As the election approaches, the pressure on both the Conservative and Labour parties to address the two-child benefit cap is likely to intensify. The policy's impact on child poverty and the hardship faced by families across the UK will undoubtedly be a key issue for voters to consider.

What is the two child cap?

The two child cap is a controversial policy that limits certain benefits for families who have more than two children. This policy has been met with criticism from various organisations and individuals who argue that it unfairly penalises larger families and pushes children into poverty.

The policy was introduced in April 2017 as part of the Conservative government's welfare reforms. Under this policy, families who have a third or more children born after 6 April 2017 are not eligible to claim the child element of child tax credit or universal credit for that child. The policy applies to all families, regardless of their income or circumstances.

But there are some exceptions to the two child cap. These include:

  • Children born as part of a multiple birth (e.g., twins or triplets)
  • Children born as a result of rape or a coercive or controlling relationship
  • Children who are adopted or in kinship care

What effect does the two child cap have on families?  

The two child cap has been criticised by various organisations, including charities and think tanks, who argue that it unfairly effects larger families and pushes more children into poverty. Some of the key concerns include:

  • The policy disproportionately affects low-income families who may struggle to provide for their children without the additional support
  • It could discourage people from having more children, even if they want to and are able to support them
  • It could lead to an increase in child poverty, as families with more than two children may struggle to make ends meet

Is there other financial support for families struggling under the two child cap?

Families affected by the two child cap might be able to claim other benefits or support, depending on their circumstances. This could include:

  • Housing benefit or universal credit housing costs element to help with rent or mortgage payments
  • Free school meals for children in reception, year 1, or year 2
  • Healthy Start vouchers for pregnant women and children under 4 to help with the cost of milk, fruit, and vegetables
  • Sure Start maternity grant for those on a low income who are expecting their first child or a multiple birth

It's important for families to seek advice and support if they are struggling financially, as there may be other options available to them.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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