UK Credit

Bishop reiterates call to end Universal Credit’s two-child limit

LIMITING Universal Credit payments to cover just two children was a mistake and should be scrapped, the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler, told the House of Lords last Friday.

Presenting the second reading of his bill to abolish the restriction, he said the policy contradicted the belief that every child should be treated equally. “This policy is the main driver of increasing child poverty,” he said. “Families in difficulty discover that the social security system does not support their entire family as they had hoped, even though it is a larger family. The third child is ignored and the whole family suffers.

The work of the Benefit Changes and Larger Families project had concluded that the main result of the two-child limit was to cause financial hardship and often destitution. “This is unacceptable. This is reason enough for the policy to be dropped,” the Bishop said.

While the government viewed it as a money-saving exercise, research had shown that children who had experienced poverty were less likely to pay taxes, less likely to have well-paying jobs, and more likely to have need help from public services. “The truth is that this policy will likely increase the long-term cost to the public purse,” Bishop Butler said.

“More important are the non-quantifiable impacts: the suffering of living in an overcrowded home, or not being able to participate in expensive school activities and the shame that sometimes accompanies this.”

The exemptions did not take into account the disproportionate impact on people from ethnic and religious minorities. “Some faith groups are penalized because, for them, contraception and abortion are simply not viable options,” he said.

A survey by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service found that 57% of pregnant women who knew the two-child limit said it was important in deciding whether or not to continue the pregnancy. “The fact that some women may feel compelled by government policy to terminate a pregnancy they would otherwise have wanted seems abhorrent,” the Bishop said.

“It is clear to me that this policy is ineffective, has a devastating impact and is essentially immoral. It is a policy that defends itself in terms that do not add up. It should be embarrassing that the price paid for his mistakes is our children. »

His call for a policy impact report was rejected by Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Work and Pensions Baroness Stedman-Scott, who said the government believed the most sustainable way to get children out of poverty was to help parents work. and progress there, as far as possible.

“This requires a balanced system that provides strong work incentives and support for those who need it, but also provides a sense of fairness for the taxpayer and the many working families who do not see their incomes increase when they go. have more children. We consider the policy of caring for a maximum of two children to be a proportionate way to achieve these goals,” she said.

Concluding the debate, the Bishop said, “We are seeing an increase in child poverty, but there seems to be a lack of will to address it where it is increasing. I accept that certain measures are taken, but that does not prevent some from becoming increasingly impoverished, and some risk falling into misery.