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 1315.

    Sounds perfectly fair, the government and the taxpayers of this nation do not exist to fund the selfish whims of the few.

    Prospective parents should always consider whether they can afford to raise children before having them anyway, whether it's one, two or three children.

    The only people who will complain about this are the scroungers and the bleeding heart socialists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1314.

    Yesterday they were calling for the baby boomer generation to work to help look after people older than themselves. Now they want to reduce the number of children by capping the benefits to two. Just who will be working to help pay for those already in work when they get older? If we are all in this together lets see the government take a lead and all of them agree to only take the MP pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1313.

    'What do you do with the workshy who keep having kids do you let the kids live in poverty,its not there fault'

    I think the whole point of the argument is to MAKE PEOPLE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS, decide whether they can afford kids and if they can't don't have them. This removes the problem of bringing them into poverty!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1312.

    Diabolical Victoria Derbyshire R5L today gave sympathetic air time to an arrogant woman with 10 kids - never worked - husband on a pension - accusing the gov't of eugenics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1311.

    Continued, Is it not enough that we are investing in the future... a future where the demographics dictate an aging population. We are doing our biut for society..when are the bankers going to do there bit and stand up to the fact they are all thieving untrustworthy ...........!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1310.

    @1198 A very good point indeed the Tories never think anything through or do they enjoy inflicting pain and despair to humans, I think they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1309.

    How about also giving out "free food parcels" to all the mortgage Debtors who come on here to whinge about needy people, on benefits! Iain aren't the Debtors also in need? Christ most of them can't even feed themselves with going begging to Charities!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1308.

    I think the bigger issue is how do we STOP people having so many children they can't support them?
    Cutting benefits MIGHT make people think twice, but I doubt it.
    The problem is how to support those who deserve help, ensure no child wants for the basics but discourage the scroungers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1307.

    "To Name Number 6.... I hope you never fall into trouble because I would hate for my children being brought up by proffesional parents who both worked hard for a degree each"

    What are your degrees in? If you have had 6 kids and cannot afford them then that is no one elses fault but your own. Economic collapse is not new so why have 6 kids expecting others to pay?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1306.

    1276.The Bloke
    To those who say we would be better off closing tax loopholes, and cutting down on high, unearned salaries at the top, rather than cutting down on benefits abuse at the bottom,
    Show me ONE post in favour of benefit ABUSE...

  • Comment number 1305.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1304.

    This government will definitely not be in power come 2015. Targeting Children and the most vunrable people of our society is sickening. Do you really think £20.30 and £13.40 is so appealing that you want more children. To anyone who does, need their head examining.

    Has anyone thought these Children are our future, the less of them, the less Engineers and Doctors we have, the more we import.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1303.

    1289.faceit - ".......Non of you use the money on the kids either......"

    And you know this because of what evidence exactly...???

    Oh, you don't have a single shread of evidence do you, because there isn't any - you just "know" it to be "true" because your gut instinct tells you, don't you?

    You are truly pathetic......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1302.

    1275. Rebecca
    To Name Number 6.... I hope you never fall into trouble

    are working extremely hard to gain a good education to have to pay you to live when you get old or loos your job! We are a great nation because we support each other.
    I have quite often found trouble but have always managed to sort

    I think you'll find its Gross Taxpayers like me who are paying for your lifestyle choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1301.

    I think the government do need to take into account a person's history of NI/tax contributions, rather than make this a blanket rule.

    I think hard-working families who have paid taxes then fallen on hard times should be supported by the state no matter how many children they have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1300.

    Finally a discussion to find a fair solution to the endless drain on our tax money which could be better spent than on baby factories that contribute little to society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1299.

    The next time you see an unemployed single mum with three kids ask yourself if she looks overburdened with cash.

    I've worked hard for a living most of my life and it seems a lot easier than feeding, clothing and raising children on your own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1298.

    O.K. They wish to cap benefits at 2 children and yet at the same time want to curb or restrict or abolish abortion rights. Forgive me if I detect a real case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. With the best will in the world, folk may end up with more children than anticipated due to the failure of contraception - are they to be doubly penalised?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1297.

    Some people are shockingly ignorant. "how would i know...."
    "Lost job" "disabled kids" - these are not alien concepts, they happen everywhere; if you didn't expect it would happen, you've not done your planning right.
    Be ready to have a child and not get ready as you have it. That's where the gov is probably going wrong. I understand my comment might be brutal, but it's the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1296.

    Without children we lose our future workforce and future taxpayers. A couple having two children are just replacing themselves and to avoid the problems we face now where there are more elderly people needing care and less people working, maybe encouraging people not to have more than two children is a step in the wrong direction


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