More than 17,800 families in Scotland have been denied benefits as a result of the two-child limit, new figures indicate.
The UK Government policy, which means benefits cannot be claimed for more than two children unless claimants are eligible for an exemption, has faced criticism from opposition politicians and third sector organisations.
Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that on April 2 of this year, there were 17,830 families in Scotland not receiving benefits for at least one of their children.
The figure is an increase of 30% on the previous year, when 13,710 families were in the same situation.
It is estimated the benefits deliver around £2845 for each child, but they are not paid for the third child in a family or each subsequent one.
One of the exemptions that can be applied to the policy, which impacts Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit, is the non-consensual conception of a child – which has become known as the rape clause.
The clause has created intense opposition in recent years due to its requirement for women to prove they were raped to receive the benefits.
In Scotland, 100 such exemptions were in effect on April 2.
Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens’ social security spokeswoman, called for the policy to be scrapped and for Scottish ministers to step in and counter it.
“With around 18,000 Scots families being denied money their children have been assessed as requiring, today’s figures show just how far the UK Government has distorted our social security system,” she said.
“Taking almost £3000 per child from some of our poorest families seriously undermines Scotland’s efforts to reduce child poverty, whilst asking people to fill in a form to signify their child was conceived as a result of rape is simply inhumane.
“The UK Government must end these cruel policies now. But if, or more likely when – because we know their punitive approach to social security – they refuse, the Scottish Government can and should step in.
“In Scotland, we should do whatever we can to mitigate these inhuman policies using devolved powers, as we already do with the bedroom tax. The wellbeing of tens of thousands of our poorest children is at stake.”
Across the UK, more than 300,000 families were not receiving benefits for at least one of their children, while 14,000 non-consensual exemptions were in effect.
SNP MP Alison Thewliss, a long-time opponent of the policy, again called for its removal.
“The Covid-19 pandemic shows that no-one can plan completely for circumstances outwith their control. The social security safety net should be there to support people, not punish them,” she said.
“In the face of overwhelming evidence about the damage that the two-child limit is inflicting on an ever-increasing number of women and children, it is hugely troubling that UK Government ministers remain so obstinately wedded to it.
“At a time where the SNP Scottish Government is putting money into people’s pockets with progressive policies like the Scottish Child Payment, the Tories are taking it away again with callous policies like the two-child cap.
“It is clear that we can only protect families in Scotland with the full powers of independence.
“I urge them to reconsider, and to scrap it once and for all. I will continue to be part of the fight to oppose it at every opportunity.”