440,000 households hit by two-child benefit cap

A report from the Child Poverty Action Group shows the impact of the two-child benefit cap, which affects 440,000 households.

Woman holding a bill and calculator, looking worried


Mums are being forced back to work early from maternity leave due to the two-child benefit cap as figures show 440,000 households have been affected.

According to a new survey of 560 families by the Child Poverty Action Group the policy is causing direct harm to children and to family life.  Some mothers have been forced to cut short maternity leave to return to work, when babies are as young as four months. Parents report having to keep children off school because of lack of money for basics like school shoes.  Children have been forced to give up GCSE subjects like PE because of associated costs.  And parents say their youngest children are ‘clingy’ and less confident than older siblings because the two-child limit makes social activities like playgroups unaffordable.  

One single parent in full-time work said: “I have four children […] to support with one income. I work full-time as a paramedic on an ok salary, but cannot afford to pay my mortgage as well as feed my children. I use a food bank […] Regardless of me working, it’s impossible to cover all the needs of four children from only one salary, even though I’m on an ok wage…with childcare fees and mortgage, it’s just impossible… I couldn’t afford to stay on maternity leave, so I went back to work when my baby was six months […] I had to pay £580 upfront for the first month of nursery and I’ve gone into debt because of it, I ended up borrowing from family.”

Almost half (45%) of respondents said they struggle to pay their rent or mortgage because of the policy.  A similar proportion (46%) struggle to manage childcare costs.

The vast majority (93%) said the policy has affected their ability to pay for food.  Many have had to resort to food banks. Eighty two per cent  said it meant they struggle to cover gas or electricity bills.

Child Poverty Action Group and other groups are calling on the new Prime Minister to send a clear signal in next week’s King’s Speech that the two-child limit will be abolished this year.

Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said: “Children are losing their life chances to the two-child limit now – they can’t wait for the new government to align every star before the policy is scrapped.  The PM came to office pledging a bold, ambitious child poverty-reduction plan and there’s no way to deliver on that promise without scrapping the two-child limit, and fast. This is not the time for procrastination or prevarication –  the futures of 1.6  million children are on the line.”

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