“We feel like we're slowly sinking.” | CPAG

“We feel like we're slowly sinking.”

Published on: 
15 July 2021
Written by: 

Lizzie Flew

Communications and campaigns manager

Families affected by the two-child limit, who now number 318,000, are struggling to get by. Some have told us they are having to cut back on essentials such as the quality and quantity of food, and replacing worn out clothing and shoes. This policy, which restricts support in universal credit and tax credits to two children, is driving up child poverty, and harming childhoods and life chances. 1.1 million children are now affected.

We all believe that every child should have the best start in life. This means access to free health care, a good education, and a childhood free from poverty. We wouldn’t turn away a sick child from our hospitals or stop them going to school. And yet, the two-child limit denies families the support they need from our social security system when they experience tough times, trapping kids in poverty.

Over the course of the pandemic many more families have needed to turn to the social security system for support – which is exactly what it’s there for. What families with more than two children have found (if their youngest is under four years old) is that the support doesn’t meet their needs. So children go without and parents fall into problem debt and rent arrears.

A single working parent told us:

“I’m in so much debt. I get roughly enough for the school run and some shopping but I can’t afford clothes, footwear or gas and electric.”

A mother told us:

“We struggle immensely on a day-to-day basis. We cannot afford school uniform and have to get things donated. Sometimes our electric has ran out and we have sat in the dark because we have to spend the spare money we do have on petrol for my husband to make it to work." 

A parent from the North West of England described “borrowing money off family for food” and feeling like they are “slowly sinking.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. We need to help children thrive, by supporting parents to raise happy, healthy children. It’s right to support families when they need it most. The pandemic has shown us all how life can change in unpredictable ways. But we all face challenges throughout our lives – whether job loss, ill-health or family breakdown. Our government should lift the two-child limit and help all children to thrive.


The quotes in this briefing are taken from an ongoing survey of families affected by the two-child limit. The survey has been running since February 2019. Users of the Entitledto benefits calculator who are likely to be subject to the two-child limit are invited to participate. By the end of June 2021, the survey had received 1,986 responses, including 863 responses in the last year.

We are grateful to all the families who completed our online survey for sharing their experiences with us. Thank you also to Entitledto for directing affected families to the online survey.