The Children’s Commissioners for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have written to the UK government asking it to remove the controversial two-child limit limiting the amount larger families can receive in social security benefits.
In the joint letter to Work and Pensions Secretary ThÃ©rÃ¨se Coffey, the three commissioners – respectively Sally Holland, Bruce Adamson and Koulla Yiasouma – argue that the policy is a “flagrant violation of children’s human rights.”
While the administrations of Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast have put the fight against child poverty at the top of their agendas, monitoring of benefits such as the Universal Credit and the Child Tax Credit is not decentralized, which limits their power to make changes that could help young people in need. .
Holland said: âThe numbers published last week pointed out that Wales has the worst child poverty rate of any country in the UK, with 31% of children living below the poverty line.
âWhile the government here must put this element at the center of its agenda and take bold action, there are also significant obstacles that only the UK government can remove.
“The tax and benefit system is damaging the lives and prospects of children and immediate action is needed to dramatically reduce child poverty rates.”
Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee will hear testimony from Adamson on Wednesday. Speaking ahead of the meeting, he said: âWe will continue to hold our deconcentrated governments to account, but these governments can go no further in their efforts to ensure that children and their families receive the support they deserve. right as long as this discriminatory policy also remains in effect. strength at the British level. “
The limit, which was introduced to reduce the welfare bill by Â£ 1 billion a year, prevents parents from claiming the child element in tax credits or the universal third child or child credit children born after 6 April 2017. The loss of benefits is worth Â£ 2,900 per child per year.
The open letter to Coffey claims the limit violates children’s rights to an adequate standard of living and contributes to a growing gap in poverty levels between families with three or more children and smaller households.
He also noted that the policy was also having disproportionate impacts on social groups where larger families are more common, such as certain faiths and minority ethnic groups and in Northern Ireland, where families outnumber the rest of the UK. United.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to supporting families who need it most and the latest figures show the percentage of children in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland living in poverty. absolute has actually declined since 2010.
âFour in five households in the UK have two or fewer children, and this policy ensures fairness by requiring families receiving benefits to make the same financial choices as those who support themselves solely through work. There are also exemptions and prudent safeguards to protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances. “
Meanwhile, Labor says more than half a million children in England have become eligible for free school meals since the pandemic began in March, and called on the government to extend free school meals during the summer to avoid vacation hunger.
According to government data and freedom of information requests to local authorities, the Labor Party has calculated that 418,000 children became eligible from March to December last year, and that number grew rapidly during the lockdown earlier this year.
Kate Green, Labor shadow education secretary, said: ‘Conservatives have failed to support families throughout this pandemic and are now relying on local councils to fill gaps in support for school meals free throughout the holidays.