February 2017 – Exceptions to the Two-Child Policy for Benefits
The government has published its response to the consultation exercise on planned exceptions to the two-child limit in universal credit and child tax credit.
Under the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 the child element in universal credit and the individual element in child tax credit will be payable for a maximum of two children from April 2017. However, the government had announced a series of exceptions to the new rules in respect of a third or subsequent child who is:
Part of a multiple birth where there were previously fewer than two children in the household
Living long term with family or friends because they are unable to live with their parents and could otherwise be at risk of entering the care system or
Born as a result of rape
The response contains more detail on how these exceptions are expected to work in practice. For example family or friends caring for a child under informal arrangements will be required to provide evidence from a social worker to support this. The government also plans to use a third-party model of determining whether a child is likely to have been conceived as a result of rape. There will be no time limit placed on when the report needs to be made to the third-party professional but there will be an exception to this for third or subsequent children conceived within a domestic abuse situation involving coercion and control.
The Social Security Advisory Committee has highlighted a number of concerns in relation to these proposals including
Separation from the perpetrator: since for some women it may be extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship, the Committee recommends that the Department should signpost women to specialist organisations for support
Third-party professionals: the Committee says that the Department should complete its work to secure a list of approved professionals from whom evidence will be required
Adoption and formal long-term care arrangements: the Committee recommends that financial support be extended, not only where the third or subsequent child is the one who has been adopted or is being cared for, but also where claimants have adopted, or taken on long-term formal caring responsibilities for a family member, ahead of having a child of their own; and
Responsibilities of the claimant: the Committee seeks confirmation that the DWP/HMRC will ask relevant questions and require relevant supporting evidence, and not expect claimants to find out the rules for themselves and present their evidence on their own
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