Guidance

2 child limit: claiming benefits for more than 2 children

Information about the 2 child limit for claimants.

Important facts: 6 April 2017 until February 2019

In general, you’ll be entitled to an additional amount for any child born before 6 April 2017. Universal Credit will no longer pay you an additional amount for a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017, unless special circumstances apply.

For example, if you’re already claiming Universal Credit, have responsibility for 2 children and you then give birth to a new child, you won’t get an additional amount of Universal Credit for that new child, unless 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 either:

  • you’ve been getting Universal Credit within the previous 6 month period and are making a reclaim
  • you’re making a new claim as a single person within one month of a previous joint claim ending, because you’re no longer a member of a couple

If you have 3 or more children you may be able to claim Child Tax Credit and other benefits.

You’ll still be entitled to additional support in respect of any disabled children, even if you aren’t getting an additional child amount of Universal Credit for the disabled child.

You may still be entitled to help with childcare costs for any of your children, even if you don’t get the additional child amount of Universal Credit for all of your children.

Since 28 November 2018, the policy for when we’ll pay for children in non-parental caring arrangements and children who are adopted has changed.

If you’re responsible for a child or children through adoption or as part of a non-parental caring arrangement then you’ll be able to receive an additional amount for these children. This will not affect any amounts you may get for any other children in your household. You’ll need to provide documents to support this.

When we refer to a ‘child’ in this guidance we mean a person:

If you’re already getting Universal Credit

If you’re currently getting Universal Credit, or have been getting Universal Credit within the past 6 months, you’ll stay on Universal Credit or be able to re-claim Universal Credit.

This also means that any additional child amounts of Universal Credit you are (or were) getting will stay the same – as long as your circumstances don’t change.

In general, you’ll be entitled to an additional amount of Universal Credit for any child born before 6 April 2017. You won’t be entitled to an additional amount of Universal Credit for a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017, unless special circumstances apply.

Making a new claim to Universal Credit

New claimants with 2 children or fewer

You can make a new claim to Universal Credit if you have 2 children or fewer (this includes claimants with no children).

Once you’re getting Universal Credit, in general, you’ll still be entitled to an amount for any child born before 6 April 2017.

For example, if your child is living elsewhere at the time of your claim and then returns to your household, as long as they were born before 6 April 2017 you should be entitled to a child amount.

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

You can find further information in Universal Credit support for a maximum of 2 children (PDF, 242KB, 6 pages)

New claimants with 3 children or more

From 6 April 2017, if you have 3 or more children you won’t be able to apply for Universal Credit unless either:

  • you have either been getting Universal Credit within the previous 6 month period and are making a reclaim (Universal Credit full service)
  • you are making a new claim as a single person within one month of a previous joint claim ending, because you’re no longer a member of a couple (Universal Credit live service)

All other new claimants with 3 or more children will need to apply for Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

If you’re unemployed you may be able to claim:

Special circumstances

We call these special circumstances “exceptions”.

If you’re responsible for a third or subsequent child and they meet the criteria for the multiple births or non-consensual conception exceptions listed below, you may get the additional child amount of Universal Credit for that child.

You may also be able to get an exception for any children in your household who meet the criteria for the non-parental care or adoption exceptions. This will not affect any amounts you may be able to get for any other children in your household.

Multiple births

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.

For example, if you’re already getting additional amounts of Universal Credit for 2 existing children, then you have twins, we’ll pay an extra additional child amount of Universal Credit for one of those twins (meaning that in total you’ll be entitled to an amount for 3 out of your 4 children).

Where the first child of the multiple birth is either the first or second child in the household, we’ll pay a child amount for all the children born as part of the multiple birth.

Adopted children

Since 28 November 2018, the policy for when we’ll pay for children who are adopted has changed.

If you’re responsible for a child or children through adoption then you’ll be able to receive an additional amount for these children. This will not affect any amounts you may get for any other children in your household.

The exception will usually apply from the date you become responsible for the adopted child. This could be the date of formal adoption, or the date of placement, depending on when parental responsibility for the child passes to you. You’ll need to provide us with supporting documents for any adopted child or children who live with you.

You can’t get an additional amount for an adopted child if they are adopted from abroad, or you or your partner were their parent or step-parent immediately before you adopted them.

Children living with family and friends in non-parental caring arrangements

Since 28 November 2018, the policy for when we’ll pay for children in non-parental caring arrangements has changed.

If you’re responsible for a child or children as part of non-parental caring arrangement then you’ll be able to receive an additional amount for these children. This will not affect any amounts you may get for any other children in your household.

You can get an additional amount for any child or children who are living with you as part of either:

  • a formal caring arrangement
  • an informal caring arrangement, where it is likely they would otherwise be looked after by a local authority

DWP will also pay an additional child amount where a child in your household (under 16) has a child of their own, who you’re responsible for.

Friend or family carers: formal caring

If you’re responsible for a child or children as part of a formal caring arrangement then you may be able to receive an additional amount for these children. This will not affect any amounts you may get for any other children in your household.

You can get an additional amount for any child or children if you care for them under a formal caring arrangement, for example:

  • a Child Arrangements Order
  • a Guardianship Order
  • a Special Guardianship Order
  • you’re appointed as a Guardian (in Scotland)
  • a Kinship Care Order (in Scotland)
  • a Permanence Order (in Scotland)

The exception also applies if one of these formal arrangements was in place but ended on the child’s 16th birthday, as long as you have continued to be responsible for them since.

Friend or family carers: informal caring

If you’re responsible for a child or children as part of an informal caring arrangement then you may be able to receive an additional amount for these children. This will not affect any amounts you may get for any other children in your household.

The exception will only apply if it’s likely that the child would otherwise be looked after by a local authority.

You’ll need to provide supporting documents from a local authority social worker using the IC1 support for a child who is informally living with you form

This exception will not apply if you, or your partner, are a parent or a step-parent of the child.

Friend or family carers: under 16s who have a child

This exception applies where a child under 16 who you’re responsible for becomes the parent of a child who you’re responsible for.

You may get additional Universal Credit for the new child if they are also within your household. This will not affect the amount you may get for any other children in your household.

You’ll continue to get the additional amount until the young parent either:

  • is aged 16 and is able to claim Universal Credit
  • leaves your household, leaving their child in your care, unless another exception applies

Children likely to have been conceived as a result of a non-consensual sexual act (including rape), or at a time when the claimant was subject to ongoing control or coercion by the other biological parent of the child.

You can get additional Universal Credit for third or subsequent children in your household who are likely to have been conceived as a result of a sexual act to which you didn’t or couldn’t consent.

This relates to a child who either:

  • is likely to have been born as a result of a non-consensual conception (including rape)
  • was conceived at or around a time when your relationship with the other biological parent of the child was abusive and you were subject to ongoing control or coercion

In order to qualify for this exception (for a third or subsequent child) you must no longer be living with the child’s biological parent and you’ll be asked to confirm this.

We recognise that the handling of this exception is extremely sensitive. However, it is very important to have this exception in place to support you if you’re in this position.

DWP staff will not question you about the incident other than to receive the claim and the supporting information. Any information received will be handled in accordance with the rules that DWP already use for holding and using extremely sensitive information.

You can find further information in the DWP personal information charter

This exception may apply where there has been a conviction for rape or for controlling or coercive behaviour, but there doesn’t need to have been a court case or a conviction.

If you don’t already have documents to support this exception you’ll be able to fill in a [support for a child conceived without your consent form]/government/admin/publications/759842). You can do this with help from organisations or individuals such as:

They’ll need to provide confirmation that your circumstances are consistent with the exception criteria. You’ll not be placed in the position of having to give details about the circumstances of the conception to DWP staff.

Even where you can’t get this confirmation, still return the form so DWP can make a decision.

If you’ve been affected by a crime, domestic abuse or have found this information distressing, there’s support available for you.

If you need to talk to someone please contact one of the following organisations:

  • Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) – some areas of the UK have SARCs, use the NHS Choices tool to find one in your area
  • The Survivors Trust – has over 135 member agencies across the UK which provide support for survivors of rape, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse (Phone: 0808 801 0818)
  • Rape Crisis England and Wales – a national charity and the umbrella body for a network of independent member Rape Crisis Centres (Phone: 0808 802 9999)
  • The National Domestic Violence Helpline, run jointly by Women’s Aid and Respect, is a 24 hour, free phone national service (Phone: 0808 2000 247)
  • Rape Crisis Scotland - (Phone: 0808 801 0302)
  • Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline – a free 24 hour helpline staffed by specially trained workers and volunteers managed by Scottish Women’s Aid (Phone: 0800 027 1234)
  • Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline - a free 24 hour helpline run by Welsh Women’s Aid (Phone: 0808 80 10 800)
  • Victim Support - an independent charity offering support to people affected by crime or traumatic events (Phone: 0808 168 9111)
  • the National Stalking Helpline - provides guidance and information to anybody who is currently or has previously been affected by harassment or stalking (Phone: 0808 802 0300 or email: advice@stalkinghelpline.org)

You may find the Victim’s Information Service website useful for locating support in your local area.

Applying for an exception

When you tell us about a new child in your household, you’ll be given information about the exceptions.

You can tell us about a new child by either:

  • using your Universal Credit online account, if you have one
  • calling the live service helpline if you don’t have an online account

If you don’t have a Universal Credit online account you’re using Universal Credit live service.

Universal Credit live service

Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Find out about call charges

If you’re having problems accessing your online account, call the full service helpline.

Universal Credit full service

Telephone 0800 328 5644
Textphone 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Find out about call charges

What to do If one of the exceptions applies

Multiple birth

Tell DWP if you want to apply for this exception either by phone or using your Universal Credit online account (if you have one).

If you contact us by phone you may be asked to supply us with the relevant original birth certificates.

If you contact us using your online account, we’ll call you and you may be asked to supply us with the relevant birth certificates.

You can either supply the birth certificates to your work coach or send them to the address below. When we’ve seen the birth certificates we’ll return them to you.

Adopted children

Tell DWP if you want to apply for this exception either by phone or using your Universal Credit online account (if you have one).

If you contact us by phone you may be asked to supply us with the relevant supporting documents, for example, an adoption certificate.

If you’re in the process of adopting a child and an adoption certificate is not available, you’ll need to provide written supporting documents from a social worker.

This must include the:

  • date the child was placed with you
  • name of the child
  • name(s) of the adoptive parent(s)

If you contact us using your online account, we’ll call you and you may be asked to supply us with the relevant supporting documents.

You can either supply the documents to your work coach or send it to the address below. When we’ve seen the relevant adoption documents, we’ll return it to you.

Friend or family carers: formal care

Tell DWP if you want to apply for this exception either by phone or using your Universal Credit online account (if you have one).

If you contact DWP by phone you may be asked to supply us with the relevant supporting documents, for example, Child Arrangements Order or proof of Guardianship.

If you contact DWP via your online account, they’ll call you and you may be asked to supply us with the relevant supporting documents, as above.

You can either supply the supporting documents of formal care to your work coach or send it to the address below. When we’ve seen these, we’ll return it to you.

To apply for this exception you’ll need to supply us with supporting documents of this arrangement e.g. a Child Arrangements Order.

Friend or family carers: informal care

Tell DWP if you want to apply for this exception either by phone or using your Universal Credit online account (if you have one).

If you contact us by phone or using your online account you’ll be asked to download the IC1 support for a child who is informally living with you form.

If you don’t have internet access you can collect the form from your work coach, or DWP can post the form to you.

You’ll need to complete the form along with a social worker. The social worker will need to confirm that it is likely the child you are informally caring for would otherwise be looked after by a local authority.

You can either give the form to your work coach or send it to the address below.

Friend or family carers: child of a child

To apply for this exception you’ll need to supply us with information of this arrangement e.g. birth certificate.

Where to send exception documents

If you have a Universal Credit online account:

Canterbury Benefit Centre
Mail Handling Site A
Wolverhampton
WV98 2EA

If you don’t have a Universal Credit online account:

Freepost RTEU-LGUJ-SZLG Universal Credit
Post Handling Site B
Wolverhampton
WV99 1AJ

Children likely to have been conceived as a result of a non-consensual sexual act (including rape), or at a time when you were subject to ongoing control or coercion by the other parent of the child.

Tell DWP if you want to apply for this exception either by phone or using your Universal Credit online account (if you have one).

If you contact us by phone or using your online account you’ll be asked to download the support for a child conceived without your consent form. If you don’t have internet access you can collect the form from your work coach.

You’ll need to complete the support for a child conceived without your consent form along with your chosen third party professional.

In order to apply for this exception (for a third or subsequent child) you must no longer be living with the other biological parent of the child.

You’ll need to give the form to your work coach, don’t post the form to DWP.

DWP staff won’t question you about the incident other than to take the claim and receive the supporting documents.

Note: Even where you can’t get all the supporting documents still give the form to your work coach, so DWP can make a decision.

More information

In general, if you’re moving to Universal Credit from tax credits you’ll still be paid for any children born before 6 April 2017 and any exceptions will continue to apply as long as the conditions are still met.

Free school meals and other passported benefits for children won’t be affected.

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

Since 28 November 2018, the policy for when we’ll pay for children in non-parental caring arrangements and children who are adopted has changed.

If either or both of the first or second children in your household are in one of these circumstances, and you have a third or subsequent child who you weren’t receiving a child amount for, you should contact DWP to let them know that you’ve been affected by the change.

The Universal Credit first child premium will only be payable for a household responsible for a child born before 6 April 2017.

More detailed information on the support for a maximum of 2 children

From February 2019 onwards

From February 2019 Universal Credit will accept new claims from families regardless of how many children they have. For these new claims, Universal Credit will pay an additional amount for 2 children, unless special circumstances apply.

Households who have been getting support for children in Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance in the last 6 months will continue to get the same child amounts, as long as their circumstances remain the same.

Claimants will remain entitled to their protected child amounts of Universal Credit for as long as they remain responsible for that child and don’t have a break in their Universal Credit entitlement of more than 6 months.

This protection will also be maintained through family formation changes, such as splitting from a partner in a joint claim, or coupling to form a new joint claim.

Exceptions that applied in a claimant’s previous award of Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance will continue to apply in the claimant’s new Universal Credit award, unless the conditions for that exception are no longer met.

For example, an exception for non-parental care or adoption would stop if the claimant subsequently partnered with the child’s parent.

More information about the restriction on entitlement to amounts for children from February 2019 onwards will be published nearer the time.

Published 6 April 2017
Last updated 28 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect regulation change for adopted and kinship care children.
  2. Date families with 3 or more children will be able to make a new claim to Universal Credit amended to February 2019.
  3. First published.