The Bishop of Manchester has made a strong statement calling on the Government to eliminate the two-child limit on Universal Credit as a means to combat child poverty. The Rt Rev David Walker argued that this rule is the primary reason that children are being driven into poverty.
The Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill, which he proposed as a Private Member, has now passed the House of Lords and will be deliberated on by the House of Commons. Nonetheless, its progress in the face of MPs’ scrutiny may be limited unless backed by the Government.
Rt Rev Walker told peers in the Lords: “In less than two weeks it will be the six-year anniversary of the introduction of the two-child limit, restricting Universal Credit support to only the first two children of a family…While the policy aimed to address the root cause of poverty, the two-child limit has instead become the greatest contributor to driving more children into poverty.
“It impacts an estimated 1.3 million children, disproportionately affecting children of certain religions and ethnic minority backgrounds.
“Just this week, in their new report A Crisis on our Doorstep, Barnardo’s have included a recommendation that this policy should be removed.
“Most families this policy applies to are already in work, negating the reasoning behind the policy of ensuring that those on benefits face the same decision as those in work.
“In some circumstances, the policies force parents to instead make a different decision, the choice between terminating an otherwise wanted pregnancy, or raising a family for which they cannot properly provide. This is a choice no parent should be faced with.”
He added: “Life can be unpredictable. Larger families who fall on hard times, whether it be due to losing a job, falling ill or experiencing a pandemic, have no guarantee that they will be able to afford even the essentials. There is no longer a safety net to catch them and help put them back on their feet.”
Although the Bishop of Manchester received backing from the Labour frontbench, there was resistance from the Government. Lord Evans of Rainow, a frontbencher for the Tories, stated that the Government deemed the two-child limit to be an appropriate and equitable policy. He highlighted several other initiatives implemented to provide assistance to families.
He said: “The Government thinks it is of the utmost importance to support children and families and is committed to helping parents into work.
“This requires a balanced system that provides strong work incentives and support for those who need it, but that also ensures a sense of fairness to the taxpayer and many working families who do not see their incomes rise when they have more children. We believe the policy to support a maximum of two children is a proportionate way to achieve these objectives.”
The minister mentioned measures in the spring Budget aimed at helping parents back into work, which he said is the best way to improve household income, including help with childcare costs.