‘Political crisis’ in the North is thwarting efforts to address the ‘punitive’ two-child welfare limit

‘Political crisis’ in the North is thwarting efforts to address the ‘punitive’ two-child welfare limit Cllr Emmet Doyle of Aontú

Efforts to address a controversial policy in the North which denies a family child benefit for a third or subsequent child is being delayed due to political turmoil between the DUP and Sinn Féin, according to a law professor in the University of Ulster.

The two-child limit came into effect on April 6, 2017 and is believed to be affecting about 3,000 families in the North.

However, Prof. Ciara Fitzpatrick, who is part of the Cliff Edge Coalition NI, said: “We can’t actually get a clear idea of how many people in Northern Ireland are affected because it affects not only people that are on Universal Credit which is the relatively new benefit system, but there’s also a significant number of people who are of in receipt of, for example, child tax credits, who would also be impacted by the policy.

“The UK data shows that all over the UK, more than one million children are now impacted by the two-child limit.”

She added: “Because of the current political crisis that is going on in Northern Ireland, the stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Féin, it’s delaying any kind of protections for these families which have been committed to…”

More than 21% of families in the North have three or more children compared to the UK average of 14.7%. The Cliff Edge Coalition NI has said this could mean the North is being disproportionately affected by the policy.


Cllr Emmet Doyle of Aontú, who is in the Derry City and Strabane District Council and represents Ballyarnett, said the policy has “pushed more families deeper into poverty”.

“Some of our wards are the most deprived in the North and even further afield, we now see people having to rely on foodbanks for example to feed their families because that extra financial support, that people are entitled to, is no longer there. So poverty is the primary outcome of this,” Cllr Doyle said.

The director of pro-life group Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth, said the two-child policy is something they “are very concerned about because we are seeing an increase in women from Northern Ireland in particular, seeking abortion because of the two-child caps…”

“We would definitely be wanting to work alongside other like-minded pro-woman organisations that genuinely care for the future of women,” Mrs Smyth said.

“We definitely will be addressing it in the new term of government and it will be a big issue for the future, when we re-elect a new government next May 2022. That will be a priority, it will be something we want to address on the doorsteps.”

Read more here – NI two-child welfare limit ‘heavy burden’ on poorer families