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Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs Can Claim Extra Allowance for Third Child – Despite Backing ‘Cruel’ Two-Child Benefit Cap

422,000 households across the UK are estimated to be affected by the two-child allowance limit – but not Members of Parliament

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Over 30 MPs have been entitled to claim accommodation costs for a third child during this parliament, all while representing parties that support the retention of the two-child benefit limit, Byline Times can reveal.

MPs who represent constituencies outside of London are entitled to claim back rental costs on a second home in either London or their constituency up to a total of £26,840 or £19,090 for 2023/24. For those with caring responsibilities, MPs can increase this amount by £6,120 for each child, up to a total of three. 

Prior to 2017, regulations on eligibility stated that children need to be ‘routinely’ resident with the MP, however difficulties around enforcement meant they have since been relaxed so that MPs who simply need to provide accommodation for up to three children can qualify for these uplifts.  

Based on an analysis of figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), 31 MPs who have registered three dependants as part of their claims for accommodation costs are either Conservative or Labour politicians. The figure includes Matt Hancock who currently sits as an Independent having lost the whip in November 2022. Not all have claimed part of their entitlement for their third child. The numbers eligible to claim the extra allowance amount to 5% of MPs. 

Introduced in 2017 by George Osborne, the policy has meant families are no longer able to claim Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit for their third child or any subsequent children, which amounts to missing out on up to £3,235 a year per child for 2023/24. In an interview this July, Keir Starmer confirmed that a Labour Government would not commit to scrapping the policy, an announcement that angered party members and campaigners alike.  

“There is one policy change that we know would make a direct and immediate difference, and that is to scrap this two-child limit. The policy is unfair in the indiscriminate impact it has on children, and there is no evidence it has achieved its aims,” says Joseph Howes, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition and CEO of Buttle UK. 


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Across the constituencies represented by MPs eligible for expenses uplifts for three children, child poverty stands at an average of 29%, while one in ten children are in households affected by the two-child limit according to data from the End Child Poverty Coalition. 

Labour shadow cabinet member Jonathan Reynolds, who told the Labour Conference in 2021 that the party’s plans included “binning the two-child limit,” ensuring that “half a million fewer people would be in poverty right now,” has benefitted most significantly from this parliamentary entitlement. 

Over the course of this parliament, Reynolds has claimed £16,264 in accommodation costs for his third child, while one in eight children in his constituency are in households affected by the two-child limit.

Reynolds is closely followed by Matt Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk where the child poverty rate is 19%, who has claimed £15,730 over the three years for which data from IPSA has been published. In 2021/22, the most recent year of data available, Hancock was the only MP to spend all of his accommodation and three-child uplift entitlement on rental costs, at a total of £32820.  

422,000 households across the UK are estimated to be affected by the two-child limit, with research from the University of York finding that the policy disproportionately impacts those living in private rented properties, and ethnic minority households. 

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Kate Andersen, a member of the Benefit Changes and Larger Families study, told Byline Times that their “three-year comprehensive research programme has demonstrated that the two-child limit does not meet its intended aims and instead causes multiple severe harms that are likely to have long-lasting consequences for parents and their children.”  

Such harms included falling behind on essential bills, building up a range of debts, being unable to save for the future or replacing essential items such as white goods and furniture. Parents are also struggling to afford essential items for children like food, clothing and heating, all of which negatively impact physical and emotional development and contribute to increased stress and anxiety across the households. 

1.5 million children are growing up today under the impact of this policy, which alongside the pandemic and the cost of living crisis has caused untold harm according to the End Child Poverty Coalition. “More and more children are living in poverty; turning up to school without having breakfast, relying on food from food banks and living in freezing homes during winter,” says Howes.

Abolishing the two-child limit is seen as one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing child poverty, which currently stands at 29%. Child Poverty Action Group have estimated that at a cost of £1.3 billion, 250,000 children would be lifted out of poverty and a further 850,000 children would be in less deep poverty. 

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, has said that such a move would be unaffordable, and retaining the limit is necessary to “rebuild the trust” of the electorate. There has been no frontbench opposition to this stance, three of whom continue to benefit from uplifts in accommodation costs for their third child.

This call for any current or future Government to end the harms of this policy is clear from Action for Children’s Director of Policy and Campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain. “The impact of the policy has been devastating financially for many of the families Action for Children frontline workers support every day. 

“Any Government serious about tackling child poverty will eventually have to confront the cruel reality of a policy that is designed to actively stop poor children receiving assistance to meet their minimum needs.” 

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