No compromise on eradicating child poverty – abolish the two child limit


“Labour must be unequivocal – Tory policies that force children and their families into poverty will be abolished.”

By Ben Folley

The Labour leaderships new language of ‘tough decisions’ now threatens to endorse Conservative policies which are driving children and their families into poverty, following Keir Starmer’s stark announcement there would be no change in the two-child limit on child tax credits and Universal Credit.

The two-child limit is pushing 1.1 million children deeper into poverty, according to Child Poverty Action Group, and abolishing it would lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and a further 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty at a cost of just £1.3 billion. A relatively small amount given the sums that could be raised by politically popular wealth taxation.

Having already been described as ‘heinous’ by Labour’s Shadow DWP Secretary Jon Ashworth, Starmer’s announcement has united opposition across the labour movement, being described as ‘a vicious policy that seeds child deprivation’ by the Fabian Society’s Andrew Harrop, and with the demand that ‘all politicians should reject any policy that’s proven to impoverish families, and that clearly punishes innocent children’ from UNISON’s Christina McAnea.

However, in the strait jacketed process of the National Policy Forum meeting, which met just days later, delegates were unable to shift policy. The event rubber-stamped Rachel Reeves Shadow Treasury agenda of so-called fiscal responsibility, which so far has meant a commitment to maintaining Conservative spending proposals after a General Election, even when unearned – and largely untaxed – income is piling up for a few at the top, whilst poverty is on the increase for many.

As MP John McDonnell said, “It’s pretty clear that we now need an honest and fundamental discussion in the Labour party about child poverty, its causes and the impact of the policies introduced by the Tories, including the two-child limit, because it’s obvious some in the party don’t fully appreciate its impact.”

Now, Labour’s left must make common cause with other members across the movement who are rightly outraged by Starmer’s announcement, including by submitting motions with the aim to enforce a change in policy at Labour Party Annual Conference. Make sure you discuss the following motion with members across your CLP or all strands of opinion in the party and submit it before the deadline.

Model motion – Scrap the two-child limit

Conference notes:

  1. Labour’s Five Missions include ‘a focus on reducing child poverty’.
  2. The two-child limit on child tax credits and Universal Credit is a major driver of child poverty. It denies means-tested support worth up to £3,235pa per child to third and subsequent children in households.
  3. 1.5m children live in families affected by the policy, with minority-ethnic families and single-parent families disproportionately affected.
  4. Abolishing the cap would lift 250,000 children out of poverty and reduce poverty for 850,000 more, costing approximately £1.3bn pa.
  5. The societal cost of child poverty is estimated at £39bn pa. The Women’s Budget Group estimates that lifting 250,000 children out of poverty could save roughly £2.3bn in future societal costs: almost twice the cost of scrapping the two-child limit.

Conference believes:

  1. Labour cannot achieve its objective of reducing child poverty without scrapping the two-child limit.
  2. Abolishing the policy will have an immediate beneficial impact on children suffering hardship. It is also, as the End Poverty Commission suggests, the most cost-effective way of reducing child poverty.
  3. Scrapping the two-child limit is an investment that will bring net benefits to society, reducing the burden on our economy and our health and education services.
  4. It is immoral to treat some children as less deserving than others because of the circumstances of their birth.

Conference therefore calls upon the Party to include a pledge for the immediate abolition of the two-child limit in its next election manifesto.

Featured image: Billericay Food Bank. Image credit: Trussel Trust

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