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Exemptions to the 2 child limit in Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit

The 2 child limit

Support provided through Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit has been limited to two children since 6 April 2017, so that any subsequent children born on or after this date will not be eligible for further support (see the exemptions to this rule at the end of the guide).

The child additions available when calculating Housing Benefit will also be adjusted to match the number of child elements awarded in Child Tax Credit. Council Tax Support for some local authorities will include the limit but rules may vary as these are individually set.

The rule will also apply to single people who join together to form a new family if the new family unit will have three or more children. If this applies to you get advice to check how you will be affected.

Already claiming Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit

If you are already claiming Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit and have 3 or more children born before 6 April 2017 you will continue to receive a child element for each child. However, you will not receive an additional child element for a child born after this date if you are already receiving the child element for two or more children.

New claim for Universal Credit

From 1 February 2019, families with three or more children will be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit. As above, you will be given a child element for each child born before 6 April 2017. You will not receive an additional child element for a child born on or after 6 April 2017 if you already have two or more child elements in your payment.


The 2 child limit rule only applies to the child element of Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit. It does not apply to help with childcare costs, passported benefits (for example, free school meals), additional support for any disabled children or Child Benefit, which are all available for any child you are responsible for.

There are also exceptions which mean a child element can still be included for a child even if they are born after 6 April 2017 and you already receive two or more child elements. The exemptions include:

  • a second or subsequent child born in a multiple birth, but not the first child in a multiple birth
  • children likely to have been conceived as a result of rape or coercion
  • children living long term with family or friends including informal caring arrangements where the child would otherwise likely be looked after by the local authority
  • children adopted from local authority care
  • where a child under 16, for whom you have responsibility, becomes the parent of a child