Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about impact of welfare benefit two-child limit on families

On 4th December 2018 the Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, received written answers to four questions on welfare benefits and the two-child limit:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the statistics they published on 28 June, how many (1) families, and (2) children have been affected by the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children in each month since that policy came into effect.

Lord Bates: For the numbers of children affected by the policy at April 2018, I refer the noble Lord to my response on 25 July 2018 to the Lord Bishop of Durham (HL9479). The next statistical update, covering the position at April 2019, is expected to be released in summer 2019.

Figures for additional months are only available at disproportionate cost.

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The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the statistics they published on 28 June, whether they have revised their estimates of (1) the number of families affected, and (2) the Exchequer savings from those families in their original impact assessment of the policy to provide support to a maximum of two children, in each year up to 2020–21.

Lord Bates: Statistics regarding the number of families affected by the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children were published on 28 June 2018, and relate to the position at 2 April 2018. Figures showing the number of families affected in April 2019 are expected to be released in summer 2019.

The latest estimates of the Exchequer savings relating to the policy were published in table 2.2 of the Spring Budget 2017. The relevant figures are shown in the table below.

Estimated Exchequer savings from the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children, Spring Budget 2017 basis

£m 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Savings +310 +765 +1205 +1615 +1990

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The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 5 February (HL5370), whether they have applied the Family Test to the policy to provide support to a maximum of two children; and if so, how the potential impacts on families are being taken into account.

Lord Bates: The government is committed to supporting families. To achieve this, we introduced the Family Test, which aims to ensure that impacts on family relationships and functioning are recognised early on during the process of policy development and help inform the policy decisions made by Minsters. The Family Test was introduced in 2014, and remains official government policy. The guidance for implementing the Family Test can be found here and is also attached.

The Family Test was considered during the development of the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children in Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit. The published Impact Assessment shows the measure will have a positive impact on overall family stability. The Impact Assessment is attached.

Family test (PDF Document, 62.81 KB)
impact asessment (PDF Document, 248.3 KB)

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The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to postpone the extension of the policy to provide support to a maximum of two children to new Universal Credit claimants.

Baroness Buscombe: The policy aims to strike the appropriate balance between support for claimants with children and fairness to taxpayers and families with children who support themselves solely through work. A benefits structure that adjusts automatically to family size is ultimately not sustainable, and parents who support themselves solely through work would not generally expect to see their wages increase simply because of the addition of a new child to their family.

There are exceptions in place to support those unable to make choices about the number of children in their household.

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