'Done because we are too menny': the two-child rule promotes poverty, invokes a narrative of welfare decadence, and abandons children's rights

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Among a swathe of major welfare reforms, one has received little academic attention-the two-child rule, restricting claims for key benefits to a maximum of two children. In negating the status of specific children within the framework of subsistence benefits, the measure clashes profoundly with a series of international legal obligations. In particular, the rule is set to increase child poverty, calling into question the role and purpose of the un Convention on the Rights of the Child (un crc) in the law-making process. This paper explores problematic recent decisions that risk creating a human rights chasm when it comes to children and social security rights, and argues that existing legal provisions can and should be used to fill that gap. It finds no evidence that the best interests of the child were a primary consideration in the enactment of the two-child rule, and argues that the justificatory narrative of welfare decadence is manifestly without reasonable foundation. If the un crc does not bite here, then we must question whether children have any social security rights at all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700–739
JournalInternational Journal of Children's Rights
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2018

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© 2018, The International Journal of Children's Rights. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • child poverty
  • child tax credit
  • two-child rule
  • universal credit

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