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Two-child Limit: Child Poverty

Volume 737: debated on Monday 4 September 2023

12. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the two-child limit on trends in the level of child poverty. (906154)

21. What assessment his Department has made of the potential impact of the two-child limit on trends in the level of child poverty. (906163)

The Government’s firm belief is that the best route out of poverty is through work. In the most recent statistics—in 2021-22—there were 400,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty after housing costs than in 2009-10.

A recent study by the University of York found that the two-child limit and the benefit cap had contributed to rising child poverty, which, allied to wider benefit cuts, had impacted larger families disproportionately. Given the growing weight of evidence that families are being pushed further into hardship, will the Government finally acknowledge the real harm that their cruel and callous welfare policies are causing, and reverse them?

Families on benefits should face the same financial choices when deciding to grow their family as those supporting themselves solely through work. A benefit structure adjusting automatically to family size is unsustainable.

A report by the Child Poverty Action Group showed that the two-child limit affects one in 10 children across the UK. It found that abolishing the policy would be the most cost-effective action that the Government could take to reduce child poverty. Why will the Minister not take that action? Is child poverty so low on his priority list that he has not considered it, or did he consider it and then decide that vulnerable children just are not worth it?

The Government are committed to a sustainable long-term approach to tackling poverty and supporting people on low incomes. We will spend around £276 billion through the welfare system in 2023-24, including around £124 billion on people of working age and children.

The Minister seems to forget that the two-child limit impacts people who are on in-work benefits. The only exemption to the two-child limit is if a woman can prove that her third or a subsequent child has been born as a result of rape. How many people has the Minister’s Department asked to prove that they have been raped in order to get an exemption to the two-child limit?

I am disappointed that the Minister does not know, because his Department has made 2,590 women prove and relive the ordeal of being raped, simply to get that state support, but given that the Labour party and the Conservatives support the two-child policy and rape clause, does it give him comfort to know that when the “Ghost of George Osborne Future” comes into office, his legacy in promoting astronomical child poverty rates will be safe in the hands of the Blairites on the Labour Benches?

I can only repeat that, compared with 2009-10, there are 400,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs.