By Lucy Ashton
The Children’s Commissioners of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have today repeated their calls to the UK Government to end its two-child limit on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit warning that the policy continues to violate children’s human rights. All three have also called on the UK Government to abandon the scrapping of the £20 uplift, which would compound the poverty issues facing children across the nations, and urge the prioritisation of children’s rights in any further changes to Universal Credit.
Giving evidence to the Public Services Committee at the House of Lords, the Commissioners again pointed out that the two-child limit policy – which disallows benefits payments to third and subsequent children born after April 2017 in most circumstances – is a discriminatory policy contrary to the government’s obligations under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland said: “We remain deeply concerned that the two-child policy and the scrapping of the £20 uplift breaches children’s rights to an adequate standard of living and is contributing to a rising gap in poverty levels between families with three or more children and smaller households.
“The two-child limit in particular has a disproportionate impact on social groups where larger families are more common, such as some minority faith and ethnic groups and in Northern Ireland where families are larger than the rest of the UK.”
The Commissioners – Bruce Adamson for Scotland, Sally Holland for Wales, and Koulla Yiasouma for Northern Ireland – remain concerned that UK benefit rules prevent devolved governments from fully tackling child poverty.
Speaking after the Committee session, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson said: “The Scottish Government had an opportunity yesterday within the Programme for Government to do all that it can to mitigate against the worse of the UK Government’s benefit rules. While new commitments on housing, food and the new Whole Family Wellbeing Fund are welcome, not increasing the Scottish Child Payment with immediate effect was hugely concerning as children need this money now.
“Poverty is a human rights issue and while UK benefit rules continue to play a significant part in keeping families in poverty, the Scottish Government plays an important role in ensuring children’s rights are met. The effects of the pandemic – which are still becoming clear – have only served to make a dire situation worse for those in poverty or only just getting by. Both governments must do more.”
Commissioner Sally Holland said: “Children are hungry and living in sub-standard housing in the UK in 2021 and that is a disgrace. Poverty affects every aspect of a child’s life, from their health – both physical and mental – to their education. How can a child concentrate properly at school and learn if they are hungry? The State has an obligation to children and every child has the right to an adequate standard of living. Families have a right to social security. These polices are a clear breach of children’s human rights.”
In May, the Children’s Commissioners of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland wrote an open letter to the Right Honourable Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, calling for an end to the two-child limit of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit and for the £20 uplift in universal credit amounts to be maintained.