Needs and Entitlements: How UK welfare reform affects larger families

Project outline


Larger families have always faced a disproportionate risk of poverty. Two recent welfare reforms - the household benefit cap, which limits the benefit income a household can receive, and the two-child limit, which restricts eligibility for child-benefits to two children - are expected to exacerbate this risk even further.

These reforms also break with precedent in the social security system by severing the link between assessed need and entitlement to support. Despite the significance of these changes, there are important gaps in our understanding of:

  • i) how the reforms are affecting patterns of poverty;
  • ii) how families themselves are responding to the changes, and
  • iii) whether they are affecting wider well-being.

There is some early analysis of these policies but the available evidence is small-scale and incomplete.

To address these gaps, we will begin by looking at large-scale datasets to examine how poverty risks have changed as a result of the two-child limit and benefits cap.

We will then track how larger families are coping, following 44 families across two locations, documenting experiences and responses to the changed policy landscape.

Finally, we will return to large data to explore impacts on wider well-being, including mental health, building on the insights generated from speaking to larger families.  

The project’s timing is critical because the reforms are affecting increasing numbers of families, but have yet to be formally evaluated.

Our findings will inform future policy interventions and enable a better understanding of welfare reform’s impact on larger families.

Visit the project website (externally managed).