More of Scotland's families fall into two-child limit net

Published on: 
31 July 2019
  • 9,000 households affected in Scotland
  • 592,000 children affected by the policy across the UK
  • 59% of affected families are working
  • 58% of affected families have three children

Responding to today’s HMRC statistics showing the number of families affected by the two-child limit in tax credits and universal credit after two years of the policy, Director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, John Dickie said:

“Today’s figures are a grim reminder of the human cost of this nasty policy, which says that some children are more deserving than others purely on the basis of their birth order - and which mostly affects working families. Every child deserves a good start in life, and we would never turn a third-born child away from school or hospital. How can it be right to deny the same young children the social security support they need to enjoy a childhood free from poverty when their family falls on hard times?

“Our recent survey of over 400 affected families in Scotland and across the UK (1) revealed the deep damage the policy has already done in just two years. Parents reported more conflict at home – even between siblings – as money worries rise and older children have to relinquish childhood fundamentals like football club, school trips and swimming lessons so that nappies, baby milk and bills can be paid for. Many parents had to borrow money each month to get by, and several had considered terminations when they found out about the policy after they became pregnant.

“The two-child limit undermines family life and leaves children without support in their vital early years, when the foundations are being laid for their future development. The UK government should lift the two-child limit to help all children thrive. ”

CPAG’s analysis indicates that across the UK 1.8 million children are likely to be affected by the two child limit by 2023. Of these one million will already be living below the poverty line, and will be pushed deeper into poverty by the policy. A further 300,000 will be pushed into poverty by the two-child limit. (2)


Notes to Editors:


HMRC statistics on the two-child limit are here

The two-child limit restricts the child element in universal credit and tax credits, worth £2,780 per year, to the first two children. Before 6 April 2017 it was payable for all children in low-income families to protect them against poverty. Third or subsequent children born before the policy was introduced are exempted.

1) CPAG’s joint report with the Church of England and others, All Kids Count: the impact of the two-child limit after two years, published in June 2019, is here

2) The report draws on an online survey of 438 families and in-depth interviews with 16 families, including families in Scotland, all of whom have been directly affected by the two-child limit. The survey was carried out from mid-February to mid-June 2019, using a benefits calculator tool created by the charity Entitledto to identify claimants who are subject to the two-child limit.

Child Poverty Action Group commissioned The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to model the impact of the policy on child poverty in 023-24, once Universal Credit is fully rolled out. IPPR used its tax-benefit model, data from the 2016/17 family resources survey and economic projections based on the 2019 Spring Statement, to project impacts of the two-child limit.


For more information or to request an interview, please can contact John Dickie, Director of CPAG in Scotland here: