Sam*, who lives in Essex, is married and working full-time to support his young family. He and his wife have three children all aged under four, and are expecting a fourth. Before the birth of their youngest child, born six weeks after the two-child limit came into effect, the family was managing financially, but they have since experienced significant changes to their financial and general wellbeing.
When their third child was born, and needing more space, the family had to move out of their council house to a private rented home because they could not find a suitable council property. Sam and his wife now rent privately at a cost of £975 a month which he describes as ‘crippling’. Sam explained that the two-child limit exacerbates this already difficult financial situation. Despite working full time, he feels this does not pay and describes life as a constant struggle: ‘You know the truth is work don’t pay… we’re finding that I’m going to work and I’m about £50 a week better off, but then I’ve got to travel to work, I’m not here five days, [and] I’ve got four children. It’s really pointless me working if you really add it all up. It really just makes you feel defeated before you’ve even begun’. Sam and his wife shop cheaply, including at charity shops, and feel caught in a cycle of selling things and borrowing on credit cards to keep afloat.
Sam suffers from a hiatal hernia, the symptoms of which are worsened with anxiety caused by his family’s financial situation. Sam is reluctant to take time away from work to recover, as he believes in hard work, but he feels penalised by the withdrawal in benefits when he earns: ‘I want to go out and work, I want to have that sense of pride about myself, you know, and carry on fighting. But it’s got to that stage where you just think to myself “You’re gonna give us that much money when I don’t go to work, and when I do go to work you’re gonna take from us?”…it’s just that knife edge existence all the time’.
Sam told us that the two-child limit makes him feel he has done something wrong, even criminal. He also explained that his children have missed out as a result of the policy, with many activities and even simple treats like an ice cream in the park now unaffordable: ‘Yeah it affects them, like, you know, creating memories… Like I said, we have no money. …For [school] holidays we’ve got no money to treat them to do anything nice you know… just getting a round of ice-creams is expensive, just taking them places like the swings is expensive… We can’t take them to any clubs or activities or anything unless we beg, steal or borrow.’
Sam’s wife was already pregnant with their third child when the two-child limit came into force. Sam and his wife decided to have a fourth child because they believe that they should be able to grow their family as a married couple. They also feel that children are the future of the country, who will grow up and give back to the economy, and that penalising children as through this policy is both ‘cruel’ and ‘pointless’.
Names have been changed
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