Child-related benefits may be 'capped' at two children

Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith insisted there should not be a "something for nothing" culture

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Child-related benefits for families may be capped at two children, the work and pensions secretary has said.

Iain Duncan Smith said stopping the current system, where families get more benefits the more children they have, was among changes being considered.

Families on benefits were often "freed from" the decision of whether they could afford more children, Mr Duncan Smith said, and must "cut their cloth".

But child poverty campaigners expressed concerns at the proposals.

In a speech in Cambridge, Mr Duncan Smith will ask whether families should be able to expect never-ending amounts of money for every child, when working households have to make tough choices about what they can afford.

Ahead of the speech, he told the BBC that the state would continue to support unemployed people who wanted to have children but had to question whether such support should be "endless".

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The idea to cap benefits after families have their second child is guaranteed to generate headlines, controversy, but, you know what, very little money.”

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"When you look at families across the board across all incomes, you find the vast majority make decisions about the number of children they have, the families they want, based on what they think they can afford."

Many working families decided against having more children even if they wanted to, for financial reasons, he suggested, while there was a "clustering" of large families on welfare who did not have to confront that reality.

"People who are having support from welfare are often freed from that decision. Can there be not be a limit to the fact you need to cut your cloth in accordance with what capabilities and finances you have?"

'Part of a process'

Asked where a potential cap would be set, Mr Duncan Smith said: "My view, if you did this, you would start it for people who begin to have more than, say, two children."

He rejected suggestions this was about "penalising" people or simply saving money, insisting it was a question of fairness to those who were in work and paying taxes to support welfare.

"This is part of the process of saying there is a limit to the amount of welfare available and we need you to be positive about doing the right thing, to seek a job and to support your family."


  • Of the 7.8 million families receiving child benefit, 1.2 million have more than two children
  • Of the 5.2 million families receiving child tax credits, about 926,000 of them have more than two children
  • UK spending on family benefits as a percentage of GDP is the third highest of all major economies, the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development has said

It is not yet clear which child-related benefits would be covered by any cap and the BBC understands the plan would not come into effect until after the next general election - scheduled for 2015.

No 10 said no final decisions had been taken on the matter. "We are looking at a range of choices on welfare reform and the welfare secretary was posing questions," a spokesman said.

According to government statistics, there were 3.2 million children living in families with three or more children in 2010-11 and families with more than two children are more likely to be living in poverty based on standard measures of comparative income.

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the move would save an estimated £200m, so was relatively small in scale compared with the £18bn already cut from the welfare budget and the additional £10bn in savings now being looked for.

But he said polls suggested the idea of setting the cap at two children popular with the public, many of whom had two children and did not understand why people who do not work should have things they did not.

Mr Duncan Smith's overarching message is that cultural change is required - both in the minds of those on benefits and in government - so that the welfare system is a springboard into work, rather than something which traps people into a life of dependency.

'Welfare chaos'

Campaigners said they were "very worried" about the government's intentions, pointing out that the majority of children in poverty are those whose parents are already working in low-paid jobs.

"Like many other people, when they plan their families, they are not thinking about whether at some point in the future they might be on benefit," Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group told Radio 4's Today programme.

Labour said the government's "tough talk" could not hide the fact that it was working families who were being penalised.

"Never before have working people paid so much in and got so little back," shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said. "We were promised a welfare revolution and all we've got is welfare chaos - chaos that working people are being forced to pay for."

Large families are already facing a "disproportionate" squeeze on their finances, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned earlier this year.

The think tank said three-child households could see their income levels drop by 6.8% by 2015-6, compared with a 3.3% fall for one-child families.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1255.

    It is reasonable - parents must make their choice - after 2 it is your responsibility. My employer does not offer a wage increase in the event of a birth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1254.

    What about the children? What about me paying taxes for feckless teenagers who have never and probably will never do a day's work in their life to breed with impunity.

    If you can't breed them don't feed them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1253.

    Don't get me wrong, our benefits system is bloated and wrong in so many ways but at the other end of the wealth spectrum, we still have too many tax avoiders from individuals to Corporations and BOTH ends need reigning in.

    Do this and the UK will start to be a better and fairer place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1252.

    The "breed for benefits" culture must end. The majority of these poor (in both senses of the word) children will, without parental support, tend to struggle at school, leave without recognised qualifications, and thereby start a whole new generation of claimants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1251.

    Our environmental problems are largely due to the size of our population, we need a dramatic reduction in human population size to take the pressure off the environment, let’s face it, most people are simply not needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1250.

    Perhaps the highest allowance should be for child No.1 and then decrease slowly to the youngest. This might discourage large families which must be a good thing in view of the rising population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1249.

    @1135 echtdampfer - I would think that the person with children spends much more on them than receiving in child benefit!

    And is it fair that the person who decided not to have children & enjoy their freedom will need other people's children to look after them in their old age - children who were brought up by sacrificing a lot of time & money. Children are our future & deserve support!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1248.

    Just now
    So rich people can have as many kids as they like and poor people are limited to two.
    You provided your own answer.!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1247.

    I am quite happy for all you do-gooders to pay more of your salary to fund others kids.How about the contribution I make is added back into my salary but taken off yours.

    I donate to charities for people who really need the money. Not for lazy people who expect it.

    The Kids The Kids.... Easy answer. Dont have a third child if you cant afford it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1246.

    Excellent recommendation. I think it should be taken a step further though, all benefit payments are received as vouchers. Child food vouchers, child clothing vouchers, child bus vouchers. No sky TV vouchers, mobile phone vouchers, booze or ciggie vouchers etc, Living is a right, having surplus income is a priviledge

  • rate this

    Comment number 1245.

    If a family of any size goes into benefits the state should help and support them BUT if a child is conceived into family already on benefits they should be responsible for the costs.

    People should be responsible for their actions

  • rate this

    Comment number 1244.

    1226.News at 10
    "Ermm but left out income support paid out to each child at 60 pound a week,kids get too much along with the parent getting their IS its way over board oh not even counting housing benefit"

    Ermmm... we work so don't claim income support or housing benefit. I'm was talking about child benefit as was the person I was responding to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1243.

    I've been thinking about a policy like this for a long time, absolutely brilliant. It shouldn't be the governments responsibility to raise children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1242.

    So rich people can have as many kids as they like and poor people are limited to two. Sounds like communist China to me.


    NO! Poor people can have as many children as they long as THEY pay for them, not the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1241.

    "As a father of naturally conceived twins. I would like the limit to be 3 children. There are times when you just don't get a choice."
    What about triplets? Yours is an example where we should reduce the limit to 0, so no discrimination at all.
    If you expect to use benefit to bring up kids, you shouldn't have any - that is the message. So in a sense, the gov isn't doing enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1240.

    i think if benefit claimants were made to work one day a week for the government for each child they wish to burden the taxpayer with,it
    would definately make the something for nothing lifesyle a bit less attractive , and be welcomed by people that think that life isnt a free ride

  • rate this

    Comment number 1239.

    If we're really serious about cutting benefits spending then we need to tackle what is by far and away the biggest single item on the bill: old age pensions.

    Who's up for a bit of OAP bashing then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1238.

    Why should all those up to their eyeballs in debt and who are really struggling to keep up with their payments to the bank or end up out on the street as destitute debtors, pay for this! Christ most of them can't even feed themselves because of their massive debts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1237.

    1189. Rebecca
    Being a Mum of 6 who works very hard and my husband works very hard I am disgusted by the comments on here.
    I feel that taking money away from children living in pverty will only make more poverty. Think!
    Think! Contraception.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1236.


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