One in 10 children in Northern Ireland lives in a household affected by a policy slammed as “unjust” which limits benefit entitlement for those who have more than two children.
The policy, introduced in 2017, affects families entitled to benefits who have had a third or subsequent child after April 6, 2017.
These parents are denied £3,235 per year per child compared with families who have a third or subsequent child born before that date.
The End Child Poverty Coalition has released new research which shows that more than 45,000 children in Northern Ireland are part of affected families.
Figures obtained by the coalition, which the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network and Save the Children are part of, using the Freedom of Information Act, show the areas with the highest percentage of affected families are in west and north Belfast.
They reveal that 16% of children in West Belfast live in households impacted by the two-child limit, followed by 14% in North Belfast, 11% in Newry and Armagh and 11% in Foyle.
Meanwhile, according to a recent Lucid Talk poll carried out by Save the Children NI, 64% of the Northern Ireland population believe the policy is either very unfair or unfair and 60% are in favour of abolishing it.
Save the Children’s policy and public affairs adviser Naomi McBurney said the policy is “unjust and unethical”.
“It is completely unacceptable in 2023 that any child is living in poverty, let alone nearly a quarter of children. The two-child limit is unjust and unethical,” she said.
“We know that the public in Northern Ireland agrees. Our recent poll found that 64% of people believe that the two-child limit is unfair or very unfair.
“The government does not limit education or access to the NHS to the first two children in a family, so it certainly should not apply to the child payment for Universal Credit or tax credits.”
The Cliff Edge Coalition, a pressure group set up to ensure that those most vulnerable in society are protected from the harshest impacts of Welfare Reform, also campaign to scrap the 2-child limit.
Siobhan Harding, policy officer for the Women’s Support Network and member of the Cliff Edge Coalition said the two-child limit is an “attack on children, women and low-income families”.
“This policy pushes more families into poverty, as it means the loss of over £62 per child per week for those families impacted,” she said.
“Scrapping the two-child limit is a children’s rights issue, a women’s rights issue and a human rights issue.”
Ahead of a general election next year, the NI Anti-Poverty Network and Save the Children are calling on all parties in Northern Ireland to commit to scrapping the two-child policy in Westminster.
People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll expressed alarm at the number of children affected by the policy in his West Belfast constituency.
“The two-child limit is an appalling attempt at social engineering which has plunged too many families into poverty. Further welfare mitigations are the least people need in this horrific situation,” he said.