'Uniquely cruel' Tory 2 child Universal Credit policy 'perverse social engineering': Stormont call upon to ditch it

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Derry City and Strabane District Council will request a plan to remove the “uniquely cruel” two-child limit on Universal Credit.

At a reconvened Full Council Meeting on Thursday, SDLP councillor Catherine McDaid proposed writing to the Minister for Communities, Gordon Lyons, urging him to present plans to remove the two-child limit before the end of this year.

The motion noted a recent Northern Ireland Audit Office report on child poverty, which found that nearly half of all children living in relative poverty come from families with three or more children.

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“Council recognises the pernicious role that the Universal Credit two child limit has played in increasing the number of children in poverty,” the proposal added. “It understands that the majority of those negatively impacted by the two child limit are working families and notes that removing this limit is within the powers of the Northern Ireland Executive.”

SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.
SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.

Speaking about the impact on families here and elsewhere, Councillor McDaid said the policy was “uniquely cruel and the biggest driver of child poverty in the UK”.

“It’s a policy that has forced more and more children into poverty since its introduction,” she added. “And although the Tories claim it’s about boosting the number of people in work, it’s nothing short of perverse social engineering.

“It’s deigned to punish the most vulnerable people, and it’s a stain on our politics that should never have been allowed to happen.

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“There are over 9,000 children living in poverty in our council area, and our relative poverty rates are double those of the most affluent places in the North.

“I have no doubt that this disgusting policy has fuelled that, and we believe our locally-elected Assembly must take action.

“I’m not asking for it to be removed overnight, but to set the direction to once and for all end this poverty trap that has caused misery for so many people.”

In an amendment to the motion, DUP Alderman Niree McMorris requested that the council write to the Finance Minister, Caoimhe Archibald, seeking a proposed budget to remove the limit.

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People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin agreed that the limit was “cruel” and proposed contacting Central Government, after the General Election on July 4, about scrapping the policy.

He added: “We don’t ration education to the first two children, because that would be completely unacceptable.

“This is one of the most sick Tory policies we’ve had and it should never have been introduced, because of the impact it’s had on the most vulnerable in our society.”

Independent councillor Gary Donnelly said “anybody on the ground” sees the limit’s effect on working class families with young children.

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“Primary schools are putting on free school meals and have noticed that attendance sky-rockets,” he concluded. “And when we see government spending billions of pounds to fuel and maintain conflicts, that money can be easily found.

”There are billions to fund the war industry, but yet we don’t have enough to make sure children aren’t going hungry.”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter