Guidance

2 child limit: claiming benefits for more than 2 children

Information about the 2 child limit for claimants.

Overview

If you’re already getting benefits for more than 2 children you will continue to get those benefits.

You won’t be paid an additional amount for more than 2 children, unless the children are born before 6 April 2017 (on or before 6 April for Income Support) or special circumstances apply.

If you have 3 or more children you won’t be able to make a new Universal Credit claim at the moment - unless you are making a re-claim because you were getting Universal Credit within the last 6 months.

If you have 3 or more children and can’t apply for Universal Credit, you may be able to make a new claim to Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, and other benefits.

If you’re getting Income Support with ‘dependants allowance’ for one or more children, and another child joins your household you need to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

DWP will tell you if the amount of dependants allowance you get will change. This will depend on the new rules for claiming benefits for more than 2 children and your circumstances.

From February 2019, families with 3 or more children will be able to make a new claim to Universal Credit. For these new claims, Universal Credit will only pay an additional amount for 2 children, unless special circumstances apply.

Eventually, when current benefit claimants move over onto Universal Credit the existing entitlement of families will be protected, as long as they remain responsible for the same children.

If you’ve already claimed Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit

If you were getting Universal Credit or Child Tax Credits before 6 April 2017, you’ll continue to get the same amount of support.

If you got Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit in the previous 6 months but it stopped for a period of time, you’ll get the same support when you re-claim these, as long as you remain responsible for the same children.

If you have another child or become responsible for another child

In general, claimants will be entitled to an extra amount for any child or qualifying young person born before 6 April 2017.

However, for Universal Credit where you become responsible for a child born before 6 April 2017, through adoption or as part of a friend and family care arrangement, and you already have a second child born on or after 6 April 2017, we won’t automatically pay an additional amount for the new child added.

This is because we’ll continue to pay for the second child who is born after 6 April 2017. We would still pay for the new child added if special circumstances apply.

If you’ve another child that isn’t living with you when you claim Universal Credit, but then they return to your household, you’ll be entitled to a child amount for them, as long as they were born before 6 April 2017.

Note: If this happens and you already have a second child that was born after 6 April 2017, the second child will be moved to the position of 3rd child and you will not get an extra child amount unless an exception applies (to the child born after 6 April 2017).

You should report the birth of a child in the usual way for Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support so that we can decide if an extra amount can be paid.

For Income Support claimants with dependants allowance, if you become responsible for another child after 6 April 2017, you’ll only get dependant’s allowance for that child if you have 2 or fewer children in total, unless special circumstances apply.

If you’re making a new claim

You can claim Universal Credit if you have 2 or fewer children and you live in a Universal Credit area, or have been getting Universal Credit in the past 6 months and your payments have stopped.

If you’re not claiming Universal Credit you may be able to claim other benefits, including:

Use a benefits calculator to find out which benefit you can apply for.

You may be able to claim the child amount for a third or subsequent child if special circumstances apply, for example you adopt a child from local authority care. Subsequent child means fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth child and so on.

Special circumstances

We call these special circumstances exceptions.

You may be able to get the extra child amount for a third or subsequent child or qualifying young person (you are responsible for) born on or after 6 April 2017 (after 6 April for Income Support) if the child or children:

  • were born as part of a multiple birth
  • were adopted from local authority care
  • are in your care (formally or informally) and otherwise would be looked after by the local authority
  • you are responsible for has a child of their own
  • were conceived as a result of a non-consensual sexual act (including rape) or when you were in a controlling or coercive relationship

Multiple birth

You can get extra Universal Credit for your third and subsequent children if they are born as part of a multiple birth, apart from one child in that birth. This means the exception applies to the additional children in that birth.

Where the first child of the multiple birth is either the first or second child in the household, we will pay a child amount for all the children born as part of the multiple birth. This means you can get an extra amount for that child (the first child) as well as the other child or children of the multiple birth.

Adopted from local authority care

This exception applies where it’s likely that the adopted child would otherwise be in local authority care. The date you become responsible for them, rather than the date the child was born, determines whether the child is the third or subsequent child in your household.

This exception doesn’t apply if:

  • children are adopted from abroad
  • you or your partner are, or were the step-parent of the adopted child before they were adopted

Children living with friends or family under caring arrangements

This includes:

  • formal caring arrangements
  • informal caring arrangements if it’s likely the child would otherwise be looked after by a local authority, evidence will be required using the informal care form

If you’re caring for a child and either you or your partner are the step-parent of that child, you won’t get an extra child amount for them unless either:

  • they are your first or second child
  • the child was born before 6 April 2017 (on or before 6 April for Income Support)

If a child you’re responsible for has a child of their own, you’ll also get the extra child amount for the ‘child of your child’ until either your:

  • child turns 16 and can claim benefit on their own
  • child leaves the household, leaving their child in your care

This also applies to the child of a qualifying young person for Tax Credits.

Non-consensual sexual act

You may be able to get the additional child amount if either:

  • your child was conceived as a result of a non-consensual sexual act (including rape)
  • you were in a controlling or coercive relationship with the other biological parent of the child at the time of the conception

To get the extra child amount of benefit for this reason you must not be living with the other (biological) parent of the child.

If you don’t already have evidence to support this special circumstance you will be able to fill in the ‘Support for a child conceived without your consent’ form with the help of an approved third party.

Find out which approved third parties are available.

DWP, HMRC and local authority staff will not question you about the circumstances of the conception, any information you provide will be kept confidential.

If you’re eligible to receive the extra amount for your child, the reason for the exception will not appear in any benefit letters.

More information

Additional information about the:

You will still be entitled to additional support in respect of any disabled children, regardless of the total number of children in your household.

You may still be entitled to help with childcare costs for any of your children, even if you do not get the extra child amount for all of your children.

Passported benefits, things like free school meals for children will not be affected.

You should continue to report the birth of a child and any changes in your circumstances involving children or young people so that you don’t miss out on what you are entitled to.

Changes to Tax Credit claims should be reported to HMRC, changes to Universal Credit and other benefits should be reported to DWP.

Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland you’ll continue to be able to claim Tax Credits until Universal Credit starts to be introduced later in 2017.

Qualifying young person

Generally, a qualifying young person is someone aged 16 to 19 who is in education or training.

A qualifying young person is someone aged over 16 in any of these situations:

  • in full time education or not - from their 16th birthday until 31 August following that birthday
  • if enrolled in, or accepted for approved training or a course of education which is non-advanced education - up to 31 August following their 19th birthday

The approved training or course must be provided at a school, college or elsewere.

The average time spent during term time in tuition, practical work, supervised study or taking exams must be more than 12 hours a week. Meal breaks and unsupervised study are not counted.

Published 6 April 2017
Last updated 23 November 2017 + show all updates
  1. Date families with 3 or more children will be able to make a new claim to Universal Credit amended to February 2019.
  2. First published.