Research on the two-child limit

On the third anniversary of the two-child limit, CPAG and the Church of England produced a report on the impact of the policy. 

 Read the report 

The report is based on a survey of nearly 1,000 families affected by the policy. We estimate that 230,000 families have been affected by the two-child limit by April 2020, and that an additional 60,000 families could be affected as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. By the end of this Parliament, more than 600,000 families are likely to be subject to the limit, pushing an estimated 1.3 million children into, or deeper into, poverty.

Affected families are having to cut back on basic items, including adequate or healthy food, clothes, haircuts and baby equipment. In order to get by, many families report getting into problem debt and rent arrears – a situation they acknowledge is not sustainable. Parents try to shield their children by cutting spending on themselves at the expense of their own mental health and relationships, sometimes pushing families to breaking point. Despite parents’ best efforts, it is clear that this policy is adversely affecting their children’s well-being and development, as family budgets are trimmed and children are unable to join in extracurricular activities or socialise with friends.

The two-child limit predominantly affects working families. Parents say they are unable to compensate for the loss of support by working longer hours, due to childcare costs and pressures on family life, trapping them in poverty.

The two-child limit fails to protect families against the impact of unexpected life events, such as unemployment, family breakdown, ill health, and now COVID-19. This policy denies families the financial support they need from our social security system when they experience tough times, leading to children growing up in hardship. Our government must now lift the two-child limit and help all children to thrive.

This follows a report on the second anniversary of the policy from CPAG, the Church of England, Women's Aid, Turn2Us and the Refugee Council.

1.8 million children will be affected by the two-child limit by 2023-24. 
It will push 300,000 children into poverty, and 1 million into deeper poverty by 2023-24.
In July 2020 Just Fair published a briefing called Why is the two-child limit contrary to the UK’s human rights obligations?
The former Work and Pensions Committee, in its final report, called for the two-child limit to be lifted in November 2019
In January 2019, Turn2us published research on the impact of the policy, as well as the low levels of awareness among those affected.
In July 2018, CPAG published evidence from its Early Warning System about the impact of the policy, as reported by frontline advisers.
In April 2018, CPAG, the Church of England and End Child Poverty published Unhappy birthday! The two child limit at one year old.

'I don’t eat properly – one meal a day if I’m lucky, and that’s a six year-old’s size. I can’t afford to heat the house and I can’t afford my rent.'


‘If we need anything it has to be bought using store credit; this includes clothes and shoes for the children.'



The two-child limit in the news

6 April 2018

Times website (£) TWO-CHILD LIMIT ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT - letter from 60 Anglican Bishops and other faith leaders.


21 September 2017

Women's Aid website: Open letter (in the Telegraph) calling for rethink on two-child limit


6 April 2017

Times website (£): TAX CREDIT LIMITS - letter particularly focussing on the rape clause