Government urged to limit child benefit

A leading sustainable population campaigner Population Matters is calling for child benefit to be limited to the first two children to address Britain’s baby boom.

Britain is facing a baby boom with 250,000 more school places now being required. The birth rate has risen by one fifth in the last ten years. This year, an expected 820,000 babies will be born.

This adds to Britain’s record population, reinforcing England’s status as the most crowded large country in Europe. It contributes to pressure on housing, transport and services and worsens emerging shortages of energy, water and job opportunities.

One reason for the baby boom is the large number of people having three or more children. Britain has one of the highest proportions in Europe of people with larger families, around one in seven.

It is not simply a matter of families on welfare. Nearly 9 in 10 couple families with three or more dependent children had either one or both parents working.

While in much of the country, around one in seven or eight families with dependent children have three or more, the proportion rises to one in five families with dependent children in Luton, Hackney, Leicester, Brent, Slough, Manchester, Oldham, Pendle, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and the West Midlands. In Tower Hamlets, Newham, Birmingham, Blackburn and Bradford, the proportion is as high as one in four.

One signal that the government could send would be to limit child benefit and other child related payments to the first two children, except for the very poorest families.

Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, said: “The weather in the UK this Easter is yet another sign that the world is changing, and not for the better. In a planet that is not getting any bigger, people should not be having more than two children. If we are serious about sustainability, and our country’s quality of life, the government needs to send out the message that two will do.”