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Two-child welfare policy should be scrapped or suspended, say 68% of adults

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

Two-thirds of UK adults believe the Government should scrap or temporarily suspend a policy which states low-income families cannot receive further welfare support when they have more than two children, research suggests.

More than a third (36%) said it should be scrapped for good and 32% said it should be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic so all children are supported, according to polling for The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

The two-child limit was introduced in April 2017 and restricts the amount of financial support families with at least three children can receive.

Previous research by BPAS found this was a significant factor in some women’s decisions to end a pregnancy during the coronavirus pandemic.

BPAS said the policy is “harmful and cruel” and is calling on the Government to scrap it “as a matter of urgency”.

In the latest polling, of 2,013 UK adults aged 16-55 in February, more than half of Conservative voters said the policy should be scrapped for good (25%) or suspended during the pandemic (28%).

Katherine O’Brien, associate director of communications and campaigns, said: “At BPAS we have always opposed the two-child limit because it is rooted in the incorrect belief that unplanned pregnancies can be avoided.

“No method of contraception is 100% reliable, and indeed the majority of women presenting at BPAS for abortion care were using a method of contraception when they fell pregnant.

“During the pandemic it has become very difficult for women to access contraception and in particular long-acting methods with a higher efficacy, such as the coil or contraceptive implant, which require face-to-face consultations and for a fitting performed by a healthcare professional.

“The pandemic has created a unique set of circumstances in which previous justifications for the two-child limit cannot be said to still stand – and the public agree.

“We recognise that, now more than ever, even the most carefully planned families can find themselves plunged into financial difficulties due to sudden unemployment, and that women can struggle to protect themselves against unplanned pregnancy.”

The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, said families must be supported through the current tough times.

She said: “Restricting support to parents with more than two children is adding to the financial pressures on families at what is already an incredibly difficult time, as they struggle to cope with the effects of the pandemic.

“The research by BPAS shows that many women feel they have no option but to end a pregnancy, due to the two-child limit policy.

“We hope the Government will listen to the views of the majority of the population who agree that it is time to lift the two-child limit.”

Exemptions to the policy include special circumstances such as when a child is born as a result of rape or conceived during a controlling or coercive relationship.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss said: “This latest research from BPAS underlines that the UK Government’s two-child limit and rape clause is becoming ever more unpopular.

“With 68% of respondents believing that the policy should be scrapped or suspended, ministers must now take stock of the damage that the two-child limit is doing to the very fabric of our society.

“No family could have planned for the Covid-19 pandemic, and many are now having to claim benefits for the first time.

“The two-child limit gives no consideration to changing family circumstances; it demands victims of rape relive their trauma, and plays a now undisputable role in women’s decisions to terminate pregnancies.”