Guidance

Universal Credit and families with more than 2 children: information for claimants

Information on the two child limit in Universal Credit for existing and new Universal Credit claimants.

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

You won’t be paid an additional amount for more than 2 children, unless the children were 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’re 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 for 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, Universal Credit will accept new claims from families regardless of how many children you have. For these new claims, Universal Credit will only pay an additional amount for 2 children, unless special circumstances apply.

If you currently claim benefits or tax credits and aren’t moving to Universal Credit until a later date, you’ll continue to be paid an additional amount for each child you look after as long as you remain responsible for the same children and your circumstances remain the same.

By child (or qualifying young person) we mean anyone aged under 16, or a young person aged under 20 who enrolled on, accepted or started full-time non-advanced education, such as A-levels, or approved training before they turned 19.

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

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

If you become responsible for another child

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 additional amount can be paid.

In general, you’ll be entitled to an additional amount for any child or qualifying young person born before 6 April 2017.

If you’ve another child who isn’t living with you when you claim Universal Credit, but then returns 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’re being paid Child Tax Credit/Universal Credit for a child born after 6 April 2017, then you may not get Child Tax Credit/Universal Credit for that child unless an exception applies.

If you’re responsible for a child or children through adoption or 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’ll need to provide documents to support this.

If you receive Income Support dependants allowance for 2 children and then a new child (born after 6 April) joins your household, you’ll not get dependants allowance for that new child, 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 can’t claim 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. 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 additional 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 born as a result of a non-consensual conception (including rape) or conceived when you were in a controlling or coercive relationship

If you’re responsible for a child or children (regardless of the order they joined the household) who are:

  • adopted from local authority care
  • in your care, either formally or informally and it’s likely they would otherwise be looked after by a local authority
  • a child of your child

Then you’ll receive an additional amount for them and this won’t affect any amounts you may get for any other children in your household.

For all of the exceptions above, you’ll need to provide us with supporting documents.

Multiple birth

You can get extra Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit for your third and subsequent children if they’re 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’ll pay a child amount for all the children born as part of the multiple birth. This means you can get an additional 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 to a child or children adopted from local authority care. You’ll be able to receive an additional amount from the date you become responsible for them, rather than the date the child was born.

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

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

Find out more about the changes from 28 November 2018

Children living with friends or family under caring arrangements

This includes:

  • formal caring arrangements e.g. a Child Arrangements Order, a Guardianship Order
  • informal caring arrangements if it’s likely the child would otherwise be looked after by a local authority, supporting documents will be required using the informal care form

If you’re caring for a child and either you or your partner are the parent or step-parent of that child, you won’t get an additional 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 claims benefit on their own
  • child leaves the household, leaving their child in your care

Note: If your child leaves the household but their child stays in your care, you’ll no longer be able to claim this exception, but you may be able to claim for their child under the non–parental caring arrangements exception.

This also applies to the child of a qualifying young person for tax credits.

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

Find out more about the changes from 28 November 2018

Non–consensual conception

You may be able to get the additional child amount for a third or subsequent child if either:

  • your child was born as a result of a non-consensual conception (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 additional 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 documents to support this special circumstance, you’ll need 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 won’t question you about the circumstances of the conception, any information you provide will be kept confidential.

If you’re eligible to receive the additional amount for your child, the reason for the exception won’t appear in any benefit letters.

More information

Additional information about:

You’ll 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 don’t get the additional child amount for all of your children.

Passported benefits, for example, free school meals 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 what you are entitled to.

Changes to tax credits 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 is introduced in the area where you live. Universal Credit is being rolled out gradually and will be available everywhere by the end of 2018.

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 elsewhere approved by a qualifying body.

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 aren’t counted.

Where the qualifying young person is aged 19, the education or training must have begun before they reached their 19th birthday, or they must have been enrolled to undertake that education or training before reaching that age.

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. Added an attachment 'Universal Credit: 2 child limit flowchart' to the section 'New claimants with 2 children or fewer'.
  3. Universal Credit live service telephone helpline opening hours changed to 9am to 4pm.
  4. Updated guide with new 0800 freephone numbers for Universal Credit.
  5. Amended the date claimants with 3 or more children are able to claim Universal Credit.
  6. Amended information for new claimants with 3 children or more.
  7. Clarified the information about when someone with 3 or more children can make a new Universal Credit claim (English).
  8. First published.