Children’s Commissioners in devolved nations appeal to UK Government to end ‘discriminatory’ two-child limit on benefits 

26 May 2021

The Children’s Commissioners of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have today published a letter they have sent to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling for an end to the two-child limit on Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit.

In the letter, the Commissioners state that the policy, which disallows benefits payments to the third and subsequent children born after April 2017 in most circumstances, is “a clear breach of children’s human rights” that “is inconsistent with the commitments made by the UK through the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

“Figures published last week highlighted that Wales has the worst child poverty rate of all the UK nations, with 31% of children living below the poverty line. It demonstrates what a mountain the Welsh Government has to climb. Whilst the Government here must put this front and centre of its programme of work, and take bold action to mitigate child poverty, there are also significant barriers only the UK Government can lift. This is why I’ve decided to join with counterparts in the devolved nations to deliver a clear message to the secretary of State for Work and Pensions that the tax and benefits system is harming children’s lives and prospects and that immediate action is required to significantly reduce rates of child poverty.”

The UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee will today hear evidence from Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, who will present the collective views of the Commissioners in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, that the efforts of their devolved governments to tackle child poverty are restricted by UK benefits rules.

He will talk about the impact of current welfare benefits on child poverty in Scotland and explain that before Covid-19, poverty represented the greatest human rights issues facing children but now over one year later the situation is much more serious.

Bruce Adamson added: “We will continue to hold our devolved governments to account in relation to their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights, but these governments can only go so far in their efforts to ensure children and their families get the support they are entitled to while this discriminatory policy also remains in force at a UK level.”

The open letter to the Right Honourable Thérèse Coffey MP states that the two-child limit breaches children’s rights to an adequate standard of living and is contributing to a rising gap in poverty levels between families with three or more children and smaller households. The Commissioners note that the policy also has disproportionate impacts on social groups where larger families are more common, such as some minority faith and ethnic groups and in Northern Ireland where families are larger than the rest of the UK.

The Commissioners conclude their letter by stating that the ‘levelling up’ agenda signalled in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month must start by discontinuing the two-child policy:

“With the focus in the Queen’s speech in May 2021 on ‘levelling up’, there can be no excuse for continuing to breach children’s rights through this discriminatory policy that will continue to harm and prevent children and families from moving beyond the impact of the global pandemic.”


  1. The open letter was signed by:

Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Professor Sally Holland

Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma

2) Bruce Adamson will provide evidence to the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee on 26 May 2021 at 0930: