Campaigners Demand Labour Scrap 'Cruel' Two-Child Benefit Cap As Thousands More Affected

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 6: British Prime Minister Keir Starmer chairs the first meeting of his cabinet in 10 Downing Street on July 6, 2024 in London, England. The Labour Party won a landslide victory in the 2024 general election, ending 14 years of Conservative government. (Photo by Chris Eades-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Labour is under fresh pressure to scrap the “cruel” two-child benefit cap after new figures revealed thousands more youngsters being affected by the austerity-era policy.

Under the policy, which was introduced by George Osborne when he was chancellor, parents are not able to claim child tax credit or universal credit for any third or subsequent child.

Official data released this morning by the Department for Work and Pensions showed 1.6 million children now live in households hit by the cap - an increase of 126,000 on the same point last year.

Overall, 440,000 families across the UK are affected, 33,000 more than a year ago.

Child poverty campaigners said the figures show why the cap needs to be scrapped by the new government - despite Keir Starmer’s previous vow to keep it in place.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Children are losing their life chances to the two-child limit now – they can’t wait for the new government to align every star before the policy is scrapped.

“The PM came to office pledging a bold, ambitious child poverty-reduction plan and there’s no way to deliver on that promise without scrapping the two-child limit, and fast.

“This is not the time for procrastination or prevarication -  the futures of 1.6  million children are on the line.”

Paul Carberry, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “Today’s figures confirm the relentless expansion of this cruel policy, which creates and entrenches child poverty.

“Its impact is devastating for our country’s poorest parents who are trying their absolute hardest to make ends meet, denying them much-needed income to buy the basics for their children.

“Child poverty puts enormous pressure on public services and makes it much more difficult for those children to fulfil their potential. Ultimately, the cost of the two-child limit is far greater than the money it saves.

“The new government must urgently bring forward its child poverty strategy as promised in its manifesto. This must include scrapping the two-child limit.’

Becca Lyon, head of UK child poverty at Save the Children, said: ”More and more children will suffer every year just because they have siblings, unless the UK government acts now.

“The cruel two-child limit should be scrapped immediately to prevent families from facing hardship and destitution.”

Lib Dem work and pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said scrapping the cap “would be the quickest and most cost-effective way to lift children out of poverty with huge long-term benefits for our society and our economy”.

Speaking about the policy during the election campaign, Starmer said: “This is a tough one. I know how strongly Gordon Brown feels about it and I know why he feels strongly about it.

“But I think one of the problems in politics is before an election people say ‘I’m going to do A, B and C’ and then after the election they don’t do it.

“I want to take a different approach and be honest with people and look them in the eye and say ’before you vote, I’m going to tell you some of the things I can’t do.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has been contacted for a response.