Amber Rudd will scrap controversial plans to retrospectively slash benefits for families with more than two children just weeks before they were due to come into force.
Since April 2017, two-child families receiving Universal Credit have not been able to claim support for any children born after that date, with the government arguing that benefit claimants “should face the same financial choices about having children” as working families.
But in a move critics said would cut families’ incomes by £3,000-a-year and push more than 260,000 children into deprivation, the government had planned to extend the benefits crackdown in February to all families with more than two children – even if they were born before the cap was introduced.
But in a speech at a Jobcentre in London on Friday morning, Rudd will vow to abolish the planned extension of the two-child limit - saying it is “not right” following a backlash from MPs.
“These parents made decisions about the size of the family when the previous system was the only system in place,” the work and pensions secretary will say.
As such, children before April 2017 will continue to be supported by Universal Credit – a move the government estimates will help 15,000 families a year.
Rudd’s announcement comes on the same day Parliament’s work and pensions committee had been set to publish a damning report on the plans it branded “wicked”.
Calling for the government to “immediately abandon” the policy, committee chairman Frank Field had slammed the plans as “inexplicable”.
“What on earth were they thinking?” the independent MP had said. “The government claims this policy is about fairness, but it’s hard to think of anything more unfair than taking money from families whose children were born before the policy was even thought of.”
Some families – including those whose had more than two children by adopting or giving birth to twins – would have been exempt from the cap extension.
But Field asked: “How can it be justified to limit support to two children when a third or subsequent child is already born? It would be wicked to push these children into or further into poverty.”
But despite the government’s drastic U-turn – deemed “encouraging” by charity network Citizen’s Advice – shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said it “did not go far enough”.
“Labour has long called for the Government to abandon the two-child limit in its entirety,” she said.
“Universal Credit simply is not working: it is pushing many families into poverty, rent arrears and towards foodbanks.
“The Government must stop the roll out immediately before more people are pushed into financial hardship.”