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 1335.

    Everyone should have the right to procreate and 2 kids is sufficient to maintain the status quo. No one is stopping you from having a larger family however, it is only fair that you can support them.

    Human evolution is distorted enough with modern medicine and welfare without the need for those unable or unwilling to support themselves and their families to re-produce excessively.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1334.

    1296. Lou
    Without children we lose our future workforce and future taxpayers... maybe encouraging people not to have more than two children is a step in the wrong direction

    You're under the assumption that the majority these children will be able to work, and won't just become benefit scroungers like their parents. The minority will have to pay for the majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1333.

    I am a father of a 3 yr old and 6 month old Triplets, Child Benefit is a true benefit to us and use it for food and clothes, I'd be interested to hear how the government are planning to support parents with multiple birth children, we planned to have a second child, we certainly didnt plan to have an extra 3!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1332.

    I think this is a brilliant idea. My husband and I would love to have children now but can't afford for one of us to stop work to look after a child so are waiting until we are in a better financial position. I have old friends and neighbours with four and five children, they don't work at all and the more children they have, the bigger their handout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1331.

    Hmm. So IDS's household plan everything, when he's at home. No spontaneity, regimented, controlled, defined and fitting within his parameters? A family afraid to be seen 'outside the box'.

    This seems a job for social services to me....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1330.

    This looks like a good idea but of course it would be wise to prepare people towards this.
    It's just like do with what you have.
    When you can't afford something, don't use a credit card.It will only make it worse later. Children are the same, if you are not in a good position now or in a foreseeable future...then don't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1329.

    With everything else this Government have done they wont stop there, there isnt anyone prepared to stand up to them and say enough is enough. Ok so there needs to be a few reforms, but they dont need to be hard hearted sods as they have been so far. Disabled, elderly and the infirm are suffering now because of the "reforms". Makes me sick and not proud to be British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1328.

    I think benefit for 2 children is sufficient but if the cuts apply here, Surely £36 million towards child benefit to overseas families should be stopped, if families in Britain have to make cuts we need to be not a soft touch, maybe I'm bring in the EU debate but we need to stand up to Our Human Rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1327.

    Child Benefit is taken off any payments the claimant is entitled to as it is considered an income. Therefore, the only people it will hurt are those who are working ie the tax payer? I cannot believe these politicians live in the real world

  • rate this

    Comment number 1326.

    Sounds very chinese to me we really want to go down that road?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1325.

    I think this is a great idea, i have two children and would love more but cant afford to as myself and my husband both work and dont get child benefit. People on benefits should stop being so gready.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1324.

    Benefits should be a helping hand to get back on your feet.....not a way of life, kids or no kids...I agree with the comments about benefit being provided as vouchers for 'essential' items. When I'm short of money I sacrifice the luxuries in life. I don't see any reason why people on benefits should be any different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1323.

    What happens to those countless children born in families where parents did never wake up in the morning to go to work; will these "role-models" affect the future outcome of the youngsters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1322.

    In a skit and overpopulated country why are we paying people to have children at all?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1321.

    Name number 6

    I have NEVER claimed benefits (accept CB). We currently pay twice what we were earning when we got married in just tax. How dare you imply I am sucking from your tax!!! Plus we give £200 a month to charity and do community outreach. do you?!

    I am fighting for those who have not been as lucky as I have. Children will end up in care and and costing you more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1320.

    Brilliant idea from IDS, the UK taxpayer should not be expected to financially support those parents to the nth degree who deliberately shy away from working to support their family, there comes a point where people need to take responsibility for their own actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1319.

    So a family with four children living at taxpayer's expense in a house in central London would be considered a drain on the public purse.

    Has anyone told the Queen about this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1318.

    And about time !!!! But why is the state supporting the unemployed to have children? The benefit system is supposed to be a safety net not a lifestyle choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1317.

    1286.LOTS sd "I have four children both myself and my husband work full time and we both pay out half of our combined salaries on the childcare for them all. Are we not contributing to this society enough?"

    In a word, NO. The rest of society has to pay the shortfall as taxes to provide the whole gamut of public services that those extra people you've added will use over their lifetimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1316.

    While the cash benefit per child may be relatively small, a large family on benefits is also entitled to a much larger house to accomodate their children. If they live in say London, these houses will invariably be in more affluent areas and privately owned which incurrs massive costs to the taxpayer in paying the rent. I'm not sure these propasals will address this.


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