Skip to main content

Universal Credit's two-child benefit limit examined

12 December 2018

The Work and Pensions Committee considers the potential impact – and effectiveness – of the two-child limit, ahead of the policy's scope being widened in February 2019.

Extension of two-child limit

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 will seek 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.

Witnesses from women and children's charities and think tanks will give evidence on: whether the two-child limit is achieving its objectives, and at what cost; how it is operating in practice; and how it sits alongside Government's wider responsibilities and commitments to issues of equality and human rights.


Wednesday 12 December, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

At 10.20am

  • Josephine Tucker, Senior Policy and Research Officer, Child Poverty Action Group
  • Tom Waters, Research Economist, Institute of Fiscal Studies
  • Sian Hawkins, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs, Women's Aid

Further information

Image: iStockphoto