Two weeks on the from the budget, Rushanara Ali looks at the implications of the ‘two-child limit’ policy on an already desperate situation
Millions of people on low incomes around the United Kingdom are struggling to get by. They are living on a financial tightrope, which has a major impact on their living standards, health and well-being.
It is sickening that the government will limit funds to those who need it most, and this is precisely what universal credit and the cruel ‘two-child limit’ policy is doing. The policy limits the level of financial support to low-income families with more than two children. This will push millions of children into poverty, which is why I – along with 100 Parliamentarians – have written to the prime minister, the chancellor and the secretary of state for work and pensions urging them to reconsider this draconian policy.
Philip Hammond could have used the budget as an opportunity to reverse the policy and protect millions of children. Instead, he chose to ignore our concerns.
Since its implementation last April, it has already affected an estimated 400,000 children and if continued, it will eventually affect around three million children. These children are from working families who are already living in poverty or are dangerously close to the breadline. In addition to facing the daily struggle of managing on a low income, each family will lose £4,000 a year, on average.
The government’s own guidance specifies that from February next year, the policy will extend to all new universal credit claimants with more than two children, regardless of when these children were born. This is particularly unfair because many of these families made the choice to have their children before the policy came into effect. This retrospective application is a vicious and inhumane way to treat families, and simply punishes children.
At a time when 4.5 million children in the UK are living in poverty, this policy is a disgrace. I have seen first-hand the damaging impact on children and families in my constituency, where the child poverty rate is 54 per cent, the highest in the country.
Across many of our constituencies, there are entire families living in over-crowded, dilapidated housing with little space, and children are relying on schools to provide their only hot meal each day or depending on emergency food aid supplied by food banks. In areas where universal credit has already been rolled out, food bank use has increased by 52 per cent.
The rising level of child poverty means an entire generation is denied opportunities and cut off from the chance to thrive. It means poverty and disadvantage is embedded in our society, leading to a lost generation condemned to poor life chances.
The government’s impact assessment claimed that this policy would have a ‘positive impact on overall family stability’ and ‘improve life chances’, however, for the thousands of families suffering from this reform, this could not be further from the truth. As over 60 religious leaders from different faiths said this year, the two-child limit policy is ‘fundamentally anti-family’.
This policy must be reversed if we want to see families lifted out of poverty, instead of pushing them deeper into it.
Rushanara Ali is the member of parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow. She tweets @rushanaraali
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