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BASW England comments on new Universal Credit stats

HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions released statistical data on 31 July relating to the two-child cap Universal Credit policy

This draconian, punitive policy was introduced by former Conservative Chancellor George Osbourne and the latest data highlights the number of claimants affected by the change in policy as a result of having a third or subsequent child in their household.

The new statistics reveal that 592, 000 children have been directly affected by the policy, with 59% of them living in family households classified as ‘in-work’. Of those affected, 510 received an exemption from the two child cap (applied if a subsequent or third child is conceived through rape).

Families are still entitled to claim social security payments for that child if they provide supporting evidence of ‘non-consensual conception’ to the Department of Work and Pensions.  BASW has been campaigning for the abolition of the conception exemption and the two-child cap limit.

This policy does not apply to third or subsequent children born before the policy was introduced, those in kinship care, adopted children, or third or subsequent children conceived as a result of non-consensual sex. 

The change in thresholds and access to universal credit signals a discourse that the welfare state will not provide financial support based on need but rather on judgement-based eligibility criteria. 

It is estimated by Child Poverty Action Group that this policy change will result in 250 000 children being pushed into poverty by the end of 2020, representing a 10% increase in child poverty. In addition, it is estimated that a similar number of children already living in poverty will fall deeper into poverty. 

Meanwhile, the Fiscal Studies project estimate that as a direct result of tax and benefit policy changes since 2010, the number of children in relative poverty will have risen from 3.6m to 4.3 million by 2020.

There is no doubt that the changes to Universal credit is creating more stress for individuals and families especially those trying to access a safety net welfare benefit system that is based on high thresholds, inequality and discrimination.  

1.6 million food bank parcels were given to people between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 by the Trussell Trust’s food bank network – a disturbing statistic when you consider that the United Kingdom is currently the 5th largest economy in the world.

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