The Children’s Commissioners of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have each signed a letter which was sent to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey MP, calling for an end to the two-child limit on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit.
The open letter states that the current Tory two-child benefit policy, which restricts benefit entitlement to the first two children born into a household, except for certain circumstances, is “a clear breach of children’s human rights” that “is inconsistent with the commitments made by the UK through the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
It argues that the two-child limit breaches children’s rights to an adequate standard of living and is contributing to a rising gap in poverty levels between families with three or more children and smaller households.
The letter was sent ahead of yesterday’s meeting of the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee. Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland gave evidence to MPs, and on behalf of the other Commissioners, to support efforts by the devolved administrations to tackle child poverty.
The Commissioners argue that efforts to reduce child poverty in the devolved nations continue to be hampered by UK government welfare policies like the two-child cap.
They also point out that the policy has had a disproportionate impact on social groups where larger families are more common, such as some minority faith and ethnic groups and in Northern Ireland where families are larger than the rest of the UK.
The letter ends by stating that PM Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda signalled in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month must start by scrapping the two-child policy.
It concludes: “With the focus in the Queen’s speech in May 2021 on ‘levelling up’, there can be no excuse for continuing to breach children’s rights through this discriminatory policy that will continue to harm and prevent children and families from moving beyond the impact of the global pandemic.”
Bruce Adamson added: “We will continue to hold our devolved governments to account in relation to their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights, but these governments can only go so far in their efforts to ensure children and their families get the support they are entitled to while this discriminatory policy also remains in force at a UK level.”
Responding to the open letter, a UK government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting families that are most in need and the latest figures show that the percentage of children in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland living in absolute poverty has actually fallen since 2010.
“Four out of five households across the UK have two or fewer children, and this policy ensures fairness by asking families in receipt of benefits to make the same financial choices as people who support themselves solely through work.
“There are also careful exemptions and safeguards in place to protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances.”