Sunak urged to drop 'cruel' two-child benefit cap to lift kids out of poverty

Rishi Sunak walks past Downing Street Christmas tree
Rishi Sunak is being urged to changed the government's benefits policy. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Rishi Sunak has been urged to drop “unspeakably cruel” policies to lift half a million children out of poverty.

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald has urged the Prime Minister to U-turn on his decision to back the two-child limit and benefit cap policies set by his predecessors.

Households with more than two children and where universal credit or child tax credit is claimed no longer receive additional funds.

It applies to additional children born after April 6, 2017, however exemptions apply for those who had children in a multiple birth or children conceived due to rape or coercion.

SNP MP Kirsten Oswald described the policies as ‘unspeakably cruel’ Credit: House of Commons/PA

However, the exemptions have caused controversy as women must disclose that they were raped in order to be eligible – known as the rape clause.

The Scottish Government currently mitigates the benefit cap and devolved social security benefits are not subject to the two-child limit and rape clause.

Latest statistics show there are around 787,000 households in the UK claiming benefits with three or more children.

Almost half are impacted by the two-child policy, with experts from the Institute for Public Policy Research, Trades Union Congress and Child Poverty Action Group citing the restriction as the single biggest driver of poverty.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is being urged to scrap the two-child cap Credit: Henry Nicholls/PA

A joint report suggests scrapping the policies would reduce child poverty by 300,000 and lift 500,000 people out of overall poverty.

Ms Oswald, who is her party’s women and equalities spokeswoman, said: “The new Prime Minister has made much of his willingness to break with his predecessors and disown key policies which were quite clearly having a disastrous impact, and given the shameful record of successive Tory prime ministers on tackling child poverty, he must be prepared to do so again in 2023.

“The two-child limit policy, with its callous rape clause, is the only one of its kind in the world – that speaks volumes.

“Along with the benefit cap, which the Scottish Government will mitigate within its competence, the two policies are unspeakably cruel and must go.”

Ms Oswald said neither policy would exist in an independent Scotland.

She added: “Scrapping them in January could lift half a million people out of poverty before Christmas next year, or hopefully long before then.

“Both policies are exacerbating child poverty and undermining our efforts in Scotland to tackle it.

“It would also free up money the Scottish Government is using to protect people from the benefit cap in Scotland.

“I am urging Rishi Sunak to perform another U-turn and make abolishing these policies the first thing he does when Parliament returns.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Latest figures show that there were 200,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs compared to 2019/20.

“But we recognise that families are struggling with rising prices and our priority will always be to support the most vulnerable, which is why we are protecting millions with at least £1,200 of direct payments while our Energy Price Guarantee is saving households £900 on average.

“The two-child policy means families on benefits are asked to make the same financial decisions as families supporting themselves solely through work, including considering our comprehensive childcare offer for working parents and child benefit for all children.

“There are careful exemptions and safeguards in place within the policy to protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know