The lifting of the two-child benefit cap for retrospective benefit claimants is about “fairness”, says a social policy expert.
Ed Davies, policy director at the Centre for Social Justice, told Julia Hartley-Brewer that families who may have had more than two children before the cap was introduced may have found themselves penalised if they fall on “hard times”.
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“The question at the heart of the [original rules] was ‘how much is it fair for the taxpayer to fund other people’s family choices?’” said Mr Davies.
“You’ve got this idea that the decision was made that two kids is enough and we shouldn’t support more than that.
“The problem came that actually people made their family choices some years ago, they were having their family under different rules. The change says this is coming in from now - if you’ve had your kids before now, there’s no cap, but if you’re having them from now, the cap applies.”
Amber Rudd announced that she will reverse plans to extend the cap to families with children born before April 2017, which was when the policy was first introduced, but the cap will apply to new Universal Credit claimants.
'Is it fair for your taxes to support other families?'
“It does seem to be a very sensible move from Amber Rudd,” said Hartley-Brewer.
“These things are always talked about as being controversial, but the support for a cap - once you’re already on benefits then choosing to have another child when you can’t pay for the children you’ve got - wasn’t very controversial at all for most people.
“It’s about people making future sensible choices.”
“The argument here is, for a family now who have more than two children who pay taxes for years and suddenly find themselves in hard times, if they don’t get payment for those children, they suffer,” Mr Davies replied.
“But it then comes to the question in society of, ‘is this fair’?
“If you’re a single mum working nights cleaning at a factory and you’ve got two kids at home and you made that decision because you couldn’t afford more, is it fair that your taxes pay to support other families?
“It’s a really tight judgement call,” he added.
“But I think the announcement today is a really good one.”