Ask CPAG Online - can you challenge the two-child limit?

This section looks at what you can do if the two-child limit has been applied regarding your third or subsequent child, you think that is wrong and you want to dispute that. It also looks more generally at whether the two-child limit rule itself can be challenged.

Has the two child limit been applied to you?

You can dispute a decision to apply the two-child limit to you, if you think it has been wrongly applied. For example, you may think that there is a mistake regarding the number of children in your family, or that an exception should apply regarding a third or subsequent child.

A decision applying the two-child limit is a decision about the amount of benefit or child tax credit you are entitled, so is one about your overall entitlement. This includes a decision refusing to apply an exception where you have asked for one. You have the right to dispute such decisions.

If you have made a new claim and the two-child limit has been applied, the decision should tell you how many children you have been awarded a child element/personal allowance for. If you are already entitled to benefit or child tax credit and have another child, report that as a change in your circumstances and ask for a decision about that.

Disputes about two-child limit are made under the same rules and arrangements as other benefit and tax credit disputes – there are no special rules about two-child limit disputes. Firstly, you must ask for the decision you are unhappy with to be looked at again. This is usually referred to as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. If you think an exception should apply regarding your child but have not already requested one, you can say that you think the exception should apply and why as part of your request for a mandatory reconsideration. A basic one month time limit for requesting a mandatory reconsideration, or 30 days for tax credits, applies.

Once you have got another decision telling you the outcome of the mandatory reconsideration, if you are still unhappy you can appeal to an independent tribunal. A basic one month time limit for making the appeal applies.


Can the two-child limit be challenged?

The two-child limit rules are set out in the law and the DWP and HMRC are obliged to apply that law. Unless and until the rules are changed or held to be unlawful by a court, the two-child limit rules will apply.

However, the limit is controversial, and there may be legal challenges to the rules. CPAG currently has its own legal challenge to the test case rules. Details of the challenge are at