7 unhappy years: the reality behind the two-child limit to benefit payments

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Today (April 6th 2024) if the 7 year anniversary of the two child limit to benefit payments. This is a policy which pushes families into poverty. We know that this policy impacts 1 in 10 children in the UK, but what does this mean for individual families?

Yesterday we held a stunt outside the Department of Work and Pensions and a courageous mum Thea spoke about her experience of having her benefit payments limited as a result of this policy, and her feelings about this. These are here words to all political party leaders:


Dear Party Leaders,

It’s January 2023.  I’m 37.  I’m a mom to two amazing humans aged 8 and 1, I have a Masters degree from UCL, and following years of hard work, it’s my first day of my fully remote new full time job at a great company, earning a salary which is above average for London.   I am so excited to drop my kids at school/nursery, sit down at my computer and finally be able to save some money.  Everything is going to plan!

The first day of my new job, that plan is vaporised.  I discover the contraceptive pill I’d taken hasn’t worked and I am pregnant with my third baby. 

The government wants you to believe that the child benefit element of Universal Credit is an incentive to have more children.  As a mother of three, I am here to tell you that at no point did I ever say “hooray, now I can claim the child element of Universal Credit!”  And while I was aware of the 2 child benefit limit, that was not a factor that played into my decision about my 3rd pregnancy.

The 2 child benefit limit seems targeted at the mythical “benefits scrounger” who apparently makes a career out of having children.  In my 6 years coordinating my local single parents group of around 70 families, I have never encountered such a person.  We all work immensely hard whether at paid employment or at the unpaid labor of caring for our kids, and no matter what our individual story is, the kids always come first.

The 2 child benefit cap is not designed to help real families like mine, like ours.  Instead, it’s based on an inaccurate stereotype, designed to discourage people from doing something we already don’t want to do.

I am judged on my Universal Credit statement for having chosen to continue my 3rd pregnancy.  And all three of my children are being financially penalized for the rest of their childhoods, because there are 3 of them.  Why are my kids being punished for the choice I made?

Now more than 1 year later Baby Isaac, my 3rd child, is 6 months old.  Since he was born we have used baby banks like Little Village and Choices several times, and for food we have relied heavily on the supermarket waste program at my son’s school.  I have also had to borrow money from family who live abroad in order to pay my rent.  During my second maternity leave with my daughter, I was able to devote any spare time to upskilling and job-searching to grow my career and our family’s income, that’s how I was able to find my great new job.  This time, I’ve had to devote all of my time and energy to saving money, fighting for every last penny.  When I start work again in September, it won’t get easier because in addition to missing out on benefits for my third child, nursery fees are astronomical even with the “free” 15 hours.  Even working my full-time job on an above-average salary, I will depend on Universal Credit to break even at the end of each month – if breaking even is even possible.

Sure, it’s fun being a supermarket ninja flinging coupons and racking up savings at the checkout, and picking up discarded children’s books and toys from the side of the road, but it’s not a story I’m going to feel like telling when colleagues ask me about my weekend.  I feel like I’m living a double life – at work, I focus on my tasks and try to act like everything’s OK, I’m successful and middle class as planned.  But in reality I’m living in a 1-bedroom apartment with 3 kids, struggling to put each meal on the table. 

The UC child element for Baby Isaac would at least lift my kids out of poverty so they can focus on learning, playing and being kids.  Baby Isaac will not be exempt from income taxes and NI contributions when he grows up.  He will be paying for our state pensions and NHS services when we’re retired.  So why is he exempt from receiving state benefits now?  Why do my kids deserve less than other kids just because there are three of them?

I hate that I’m 38 and standing here in front of all these people to admit that I’m struggling. The idea that someone I know professionally could hear me today and see I’m not OK is mortifying.

But I’m speaking my truth because I know other women, parents and children are in pain too and if we don’t speak up that pain might never end.

Stop right now. Stop discriminating against children with more than one sibling.

Mum to three children and Single Parent Rights activist.



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