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Faith leaders urge the government to loosen the grip of poverty on families by removing the two-child limit policy

Today, 60 Bishops from the Church of England and senior representatives from other Christian, Jewish and Muslim organisations have come together to urge the Government to rethink its two-child limit policy, one year on from its introduction.

In a letter to The Times, coinciding with the publication of a new report from the End Child Poverty Coalition, the faith leaders highlight how the policy is trapping families in poverty. The two-child limit restricts the level of financial support given to families with more than two children. As a result, at least 200,000 more children and their families will be pushed into poverty by the time it is fully implemented, whilst many more than this will be locked even more firmly in poverty.

The Bishop of Durham, a signatory to today’s letter said:

‘As a society, we believe in compassion and justice. But right now, many children and families up and down our country are living in poverty. A combination of low pay, unstable jobs, high housing and living costs are locking families in a daily struggle to put food on the table.

“It is simply not right that some children get support and others don’t. We share a moral responsibility to make sure that everyone in our country has a decent standard of living and the same chances in life, no matter who they are or where they come from. The Government has an opportunity to right this wrong by removing its two-child limit policy. We urge the Prime Minister to address this burning injustice.”

The report, Unhappy Birthday: the two-child limit at one year written by End Child Poverty coalition members, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England, warns that the full impact of the policy has yet to be seen. After the first year of implementation, around 160,000 families with new born babies are now up to £2,780 a year worse off than if their youngest child had been born in the previous year. From February next year, the two-child limit will also apply to families with three or more children who fall on hard times and make a new claim for universal credit, irrespective of when their children were born. By 2020/21, an estimated 640,000 families, including around 2 million children, will be affected by this policy.

The report argues that the two-child limit combined with the freeze on children’s benefits is the most damaging welfare reform on children’s outcomes, driving the sharp projected rise in child poverty over the next few years.

Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group’s Chief Executive, said:

“The two-child limit is a very troubling policy. It breaks the link between need and benefit entitlement which has been at the heart of our social security system for decades. It says that some children are less deserving than others simply because of how many siblings they have, and removes the safety net for families who when supporting themselves have three or more children, but then fall on hard times because of illness, bereavement or job loss. We know that it is putting some mothers in the impossible position of deciding whether to continue with an unplanned pregnancy and see their family fall into poverty, or to have an abortion.

“A year in, the government should reconsider this policy before more families are pulled below the poverty line.”

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