A video shared on Facebook by the news blog Skwawkbox makes a number of claims about the impact of the two-child benefit limit—a government policy which prevents parents from claiming child tax credit or universal credit for any third or subsequent child born after 6 April 2017.
It claims that the limit “has pushed 1.5 million kids into horrific poverty”.
The two-child benefit limit is a controversial policy, with campaigners claiming it would lead to increased numbers of children living in poverty. But this particular video’s use of the 1.5 million figure does not reflect the latest government data. The figure refers to the total number of children living in a household affected by the policy (as of April 2023). While the majority of these children are living in poverty, not all are.
According to the charity Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), approximately 1.1 million of these children are living in poverty, of which, approximately 250,000 would be lifted out of poverty were the two-child limit to be removed.
We’ve previously written about claims that government policies have “pushed” people into poverty, and how this phrasing could be interpreted in different ways.
If we take this claim to be referring to the number of children in poverty as a result of the two-child limit, who would otherwise not be, then the correct figure would be 250,000.
However, if we take this claim to refer to the estimated total number of children who are affected by the two-child limit and also living in poverty, the correct figure would be 1.1 million.
Either way, the video’s use of the 1.5 million figure is inaccurate as it includes an estimated 400,000 children who, according to the CPAG, are affected by the two-child limit, but are not living in poverty.
Different statistics are available for measuring child poverty, which, as we’ve recently explained, can paint different pictures of how poverty levels have changed.
Inaccurate use of statistics without appropriate context and caveats can damage public trust in both official information and intermediaries like public figures or popular social media accounts. Caveats and context should always be included when claims are made, and oversights rectified when they occur.
When we asked Skwawkbox about its use of the 1.5 million figure, it told us it believes the number of children in poverty affected by the cap is accelerating and will have risen since the most recent set of statistics was published. When we asked Skwawkbox to provide its evidence for this claim, it referred to a rising trend in child poverty in the context of an ongoing cost of living crisis.
The figures used in the CPAG report, however, are based on the latest available government data, which is published annually. These figures show that between April 2022 and April 2023 the total number of children in families affected by the two-child limit increased by 200,000.
Figures published by the DWP on overall child poverty levels do show that the total number of children in relative poverty after housing costs increased by approximately 300,000 between 2020/21 and 2021/22 (it also increased on several other measures).
Skwawkbox also expressed doubt over the DWP statistics used in CPAG’s report, and told us it believes it's "certainly the case that at least 1.5 million children are in poverty linked to the cap, either pushed into it or deeper into it". Again, we asked what Skwawkbox’s evidence for this was, and in reply it questioned the accuracy of evidence supporting various government policies.
A Skwawkbox spokesperson said: "Is Full Fact really going to get involved in quibbling over a number when the UK is shamed by more than 14 million people in poverty including well over four million children?”
There are a number of ways of measuring poverty, but the latest figures for 2021/22 do show that there are 14.4 million people living in relative poverty after housing costs are considered, of which 4.2 million are children.