Agenda item



Councillor Austin asked the Leader the following question:


“George Osborne’s two-child benefit cap, introduced in 2015, has been described by a leading academic as ‘the worst social security policy ever’. Far from increasing employment, it’s left families poorer, with families of as many as 1 in 4 children in our poorest constituencies at least £3,000 worse off.

What information do we have about the impact of this cap on families in Thanet? What measures can we take within our own District Council remit to reduce its negative effects at a time when so many families are struggling with cost of living increases?”


The Leader responded:


·  There are a number of recent reports, from welfare agencies or research and policy units, that have analysed the two child limit and concluded it has a negative impact on families.

·  Of note is the fact that the policy has been examined up to Supreme Court level, and found to not be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

·  It’s important to note that even if the two child limit were to be abolished (highly unlikely given the extensive testing in court that it has been put through above), that would not (of itself) simply ‘hand back’ lost benefit to those families caught by it. The overall national benefit cap could come into play for some of those families, if their income from all benefits (per annum) were to reach £22,020 (for families outside of London).

·  In terms of understanding the impact of this policy locally, we only have limited knowledge. In our Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support (CTS) caseload, we know how many children are in each family (approximately 830 families have more than two children). What we cannot know is how many families receive no welfare support because of the limit (i.e where they would have an entitlement to state welfare support, after taking into account their income, if there was no limit on the number of children).  For Housing Benefit, we cannot amend the rules locally – the regulations apply nationally, so the 2 child limit has applied since 2017. Some customers who have been in receipt of Housing Benefit since before 2017 may not be impacted by the 2 child limit rule.

·  Council Tax Support, the council can set its own rules – The scheme in place at Thanet is based on the traditional Council Tax Benefit rules, which are inherently linked to Housing Benefit rules. As a result, the local CTS scheme also contains a 2 child limit in the majority of cases. However, where a customer is in receipt of CTS, the council could choose to increase the generosity of the CTS scheme, and allow payment for more than two children – but that would come at a cost.  Every additional £1 of CTS awarded is £1 less council tax collected. It would result in decreased revenue for council tax preceptors, such as Kent County Council. Any changes to the CTS scheme would require public consultation. And a scheme can only be amended from 1 April each year – schemes cannot be amended ‘in year’.

·  Thanet District Council does have funding to help local people on low incomes – the Household Support Fund is used to assist people.  For 2023, Thanet’s budget is £521,000.

·  The Household Support Fund Tranche 4 is currently being allocated to agencies across Thanet to allow families who are struggling with the cost of living to apply for support.  This includes support for household items, food, increased energy costs and rent arrears which are as a result of the cost of living increases.

·  In addition, Discretionary Housing Payments can provide additional interim support for housing-related costs, particularly where households have experienced an income shock.

·  The council also provides support to its own tenants, through our dedicated Financial Wellbeing team. This support includes:

·  identifying financially struggling households (There are currently 455 children living in tenant’s families affected by the two-child limit and  143 households affected by the benefit cap),providing benefits and money advice to help manage finances and maximise entitlements, and making referrals are made to other specialist support services.

·  The council had committed to the delivery of at least 400 affordable rented homes over 4 years. The programme will deliver a range of sizes of rented homes, including larger homes for families with more than 2 children.


Councillor Austin followed up her question by asking whether the Leader would write to the opposition party asking to lift the cap?


The Leader responded that the council would continue to lobby colleagues in the Labour Party. The real changes would be present within the benefit system whilst regarding lifting the cap.