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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.”


1. Unhappy birthday! The two-child limit at one year old written by members of the End Child Poverty coalition, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England, is available here:
2. The End Child Poverty Coalition is made up of nearly 100 organisations from UK civil society campaigning for a vision of a UK free from child poverty:
3. The 200,000 figure for the estimated impact of the two-child limit on child poverty is from a joint research report by CPAG and IPPR:
4. Estimates for the number of families affected by the two-child limit are taken from the Government’s own Impact Assessment:
5. Signatories to the letter: The Rt Hon and Rt Revd Sarah Mullally DBE, The Bishop of London; The Rt Revd Paul Butler, The Bishop of Durham; The Rt Revd Tim Dakin, The Bishop of Winchester; The Rt Revd Graham James, The Bishop of Norwich; The Rt Revd David Urquhart, The Bishop of Birmingham; The Rt Revd Dr John Inge, The Bishop of Worcester; The Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, The Bishop of Coventry; The Rt Revd Steven Croft, The Bishop of Oxford; The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, The Bishop of St Albans; The Rt Revd James Newcome, The Bishop of Carlisle; The Rt Revd Christopher Foster, The Bishop of Portsmouth; The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, The Bishop of Chelmsford; The Rt Revd James Langstaff, The Bishop of Rochester; The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, The Bishop of Ely; The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, The Bishop of Southwark; The Rt Revd Nick Baines, The Bishop of Leeds; The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, The Bishop of Salisbury; The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, The Bishop of Gloucester; The Rt Revd Christine Hardman, The Bishop of Newcastle; The Rt Revd Tim Thornton, Trustee of Feeding Britain; The Rt Revd Dr David Walker, The Bishop of Manchester; The Rt Revd Richard Frith, The Bishop of Hereford; The Rt Revd Paul Williams, The Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham; The Rt Revd Martyn Snow, The Bishop of Leicester; The Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, The Bishop of Lichfield; The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, The Bishop of Sheffield; The Rt Revd Peter Eagles, The Bishop of Sodor and Man; The Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, The Bishop of Willesden; The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, The Bishop of Buckingham; The Rt Revd John Stroyan, The Bishop of Warwick; The Rt Revd Clive Gregory, The Bishop of Wolverhampton; The Rt Revd Mark Bryant, The Bishop of Jarrow; The Rt Revd Alan Winton, The Bishop of Thetford; The Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, The Bishop of Warrington; The Rt Revd Geoff Annas, The Bishop of Stafford; The Rt Revd John Holbrook, The Bishop of Brixworth; The Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, The Bishop of Lynn; The Rt Revd Adrian Newman, The Bishop of Stepney; The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, The Bishop of Croydon; The Rt Revd Dr Edward Condry, The Bishop of Ramsbury; The Rt Revd Glyn Webster, The Bishop of Beverley; The Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, The Bishop of Ripon; The Rt Revd Graham Usher, The Bishop of Dudley; The Rt Revd Richard Jackson, The Bishop of Lewes; The Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, The Bishop of Whitby; The Rt Revd Dr John Thomson, The Bishop of Selby; The Rt Revd David Court, The Bishop of Grimsby; The Rt Revd Roger Morris, The Bishop of Colchester; The Rt Revd David Williams, The Bishop of Basingstoke; The Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs, The Bishop of Huddersfield; The Rt Revd Dr Toby Howarth, The Bishop of Bradford; The Rt Revd Philip North, The Bishop of Burnley; The Rt Revd Rod Thomas, The Bishop of Maidstone; The Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, The Bishop of Kensington; The Rt Revd Rod Wickham, The Bishop of Edmonton; The Rt Revd Anne Hollinghurst, The Bishop of Aston; The Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, The Bishop of Repton; The Rt Revd Mark Tanner, The Bishop of Berwick; The Rt Revd Robert Springett, The Bishop of Tewksbury; The Rt Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, The Bishop of Loughborough; Harun Khan, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain; Gillian Merron, Chief Executive, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Dr Philip McCarthy, Chief Executive, Caritas Social Action Network; Jill Baker, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference 2017-18; Shaykh Mohammad Yazdani Raza (Misbahi), London Fatwa Council; Alison Garnham Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group; Sam Royston, Chair, End Child Poverty Coalition; Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain.
6. For further media comment please contact the CPAG’s media centre: 020 7812 5216 (office hours) or 07816 909302 (24 hours), or email:

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