In some ways, the Prime Minister's pitch to the public, after the Cameron and Osborne years, seems a bit puzzling: 'We know the country is not working for everyone and that poverty is a 'burning injustice' so we will... more or less carry on with George Osborne's benefit cuts for those on low incomes and his tax cuts for the better off.'
This week sees the implementation of one the cruellest cuts, the 'two-child limit', which limits child tax credit and universal credit support to the first two children in a family.
Whether claiming child tax credit or universal credit, families who have a third or subsequent child on or after 6 April 2017 will not be eligible for support for that child or any future children, with limited exceptions. Families will lose up to £2,780 a year for every child directly excluded by this policy.
That's going to leave a gaping hole in family finances and comes just days after official figures show child poverty is on the rise.
New analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research for Child Poverty Action Group suggests that the 'two-child limit' policy will leave an extra 200,000 children in poverty.
Where's the rationale?
The government claims that this is a policy designed to influence people's decisions about how many children they can afford to have. Two very obvious problems with this claim are:
- First, only the very wealthy are in a position to be able to guarantee they'll be financially secure for 18 years when they have a child. A family that can comfortably afford a third child today could be hit by redundancy, illness, separation or widowhood, leading to a significant loss of income. The whole point of the welfare state is to insure families against those risks.
- Second, from November 2018, the 'two-child' limit will apply retrospectively for families making new claims for universal credit - the limit will apply irrespective of when children were born so could exclude children conceived years before this policy was.
Breaking the link
Fundamentally, our social security system exists to support people. It responds to the needs of the population, and provides a safety net. The 'two-child limit' breaks the link between need and provision and means people won't have the resources they need to meet the extra costs of raising a child. Whatever our financial position when we have children, the safety net should be there for all of us.
The 'two child limit' is sending out a message that some children don't deserve the same basic standard of living as other children.
There is no greater 'burning injustice' than penalising children for the order of their birth. We need to be investing in all our children now to make sure they all have the same chances of doing well in life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Join our campaign to stop the two-child limit.