Work and Pensions Committee

Two-child benefit limit inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Scope of the inquiry

On 12th December 2018 the Work and Pensions Committee held a one off evidence session on the potential impact – and effectiveness -  of the two-child limit, ahead of the policy’s scope being widened in February 2019.

Under the current two-child limit, families are not able to claim child benefits for any third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017. From February 2019 this two-child limit will be extended to apply to a third or subsequent child for anyone who makes a new claim to Universal Credit, regardless of when their children were born. In both instances, there are exceptions, including when a child is likely to have been conceived through non-consensual sex. But how this exception operates in practice remains controversial.

Given the cultural and religious factors that can underpin choices about family size, there are concerns that the policy risks indirectly discriminating against certain groups. 

There are also questions about the true objectives of the policy and how likely it is to further them: if the objective is to bring financial considerations squarely into family planning decisions, it is difficult to see how refusing benefits for children born before it was announced or came into force can work.

The Committee was seeking assurances that the means, and benefits, of achieving the policy’s objectives can outweigh the attendant risk of exacerbating levels of child poverty in the UK, currently estimated at 4.1 million children.

A short report on the impact and effect of this policy is in preparation, expected to be published early in 2019

Terms of reference

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