THE North East can be the most fantastic place to grow up and raise a family, blessed with vibrant towns and cities, stunning coastline and countryside, and an abundance of strong, close-knit communities to offer guidance and support.

Yet a growing number of young people are unable to benefit from everything our beautiful region has to offer, with almost two in five children here living below the poverty line and having their life chances and opportunities limited as result.

One of the single biggest drivers of rising child poverty rates in recent years has been something known as the ‘two-child limit’. Introduced just over five years ago, this policy means that almost all families having a third or further child since April 2017 have not been entitled to receive additional support for those children through Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit.

The Government’s rationale for the two-child limit is that parents who receive support from our social security system should make “the same financial choices” about having children as those supporting themselves solely through work.

This reasoning not only fails to recognise that the majority of affected families – 56 per cent – are actually in work, but it is also based on the flawed premise that every one of us can guarantee our financial circumstances for the first 18 years of our children’s lives. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s surely that life – and our family finances – can change very quickly indeed, and often without warning. Our social security system has been built over the last century to protect us against this kind of insecurity.

Crucially, most people don’t even know the policy exists – with frontline advice services across our region reporting countless families learning about the two-child limit after they have already had their third baby. Evidence has shown that the policy has had no impact on family size or choices made, but that it has simply pushed more families into poverty.

The Northern Echo: End the two child limit

None of us would turn a child away from school, their family GP or local library because of the number of siblings they have, or the order in which they happened to be born – but that is what is happening with our social security safety net, with children in families facing tough times being denied the support they need just to afford the basics.

We estimate that at least 60,000 children across the North East are now impacted by the two-child limit. At present, the policy overwhelmingly affects families with children under the age of five – a particular concern for our region which has the UK’s highest rate of early childhood poverty, with almost half – 47 per cent – of our region’s youngest children growing up poor. This is simply intolerable.

This coming week, I – the Bishop of Durham – will introduce new legislation for its Second Reading in the House of Lords that would put an end to the two-child limit. This proposal has the unequivocal backing of the North East Child Poverty Commission, which is chaired by Anna Turley, and we hope it will gain cross-party support from MPs across the region too.

We all want a North East in which every baby, child and young person is valued, supported to thrive and able to fulfil their potential. However, the two-child limit is making that ambition much harder to achieve, serving only to increase the already high numbers of children living in poverty in our region.

As families across the North East grapple with the soaring cost of living, there could be no better time to put an end to this cruel and unfair policy and give all our children the best start in life.

Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham

Anna Turley, Chair, North East Child Poverty Commission