Ask CPAG Online - what are the exceptions?

This section looks at the exceptions to the child limit and how they apply. It looks at what an exception means, official rules and information, what the exceptions are and how you apply for an exception.

 What does an exception mean?

If an exception applies regarding a third or subsequent child to whom the two-child limit otherwise applies, you will be able to get a child element for them in your universal credit or child tax credit, or a personal allowance for them in your housing benefit, income support or income-based jobseeker’s allowance.

You are not exempt from having the two-child limit applied regarding another child. So for example if an exception applies regarding the third child in your family but you then have a fourth child, the two-child limit could still apply regarding that fourth child.

A child to whom an exception applies still counts in deciding how many children live in your family. So for example if an exception applies regarding the third child in your family, you are still regarded as having three children. So if you then have another child, that child is still regarded as the fourth child in your family.

Rules and information on exceptions

The exceptions to the two-child limit are basically the same for universal credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance. (A slight difference applies regarding child tax credit in the exception about non-parental caring arrangements.)

For housing benefit, an exception regarding a particular child only applies if it has been applied regarding that child for the purposes of your child tax credit claim. It does not matter if you are not actually entitled to any child tax credit.

The rules on exceptions are found:

  • for universal credit - regulation 2(4) of the Social Security (Restrictions on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) Amendment Regulations 2017. 
  • for child tax credit - regulation 5 of the Child Tax Credit Regulations 2017, applied to housing benefit via regulation 7 and regulation 8 of the Social Security (Restrictions on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) Amendment Regulations 2017. 
  • for income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance - regulation 5(2) and regulation 6(2) of the Social Security (Restrictions on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) Amendment Regulations 2017. 

Official information regarding exceptions for universal credit is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-and-families-with-more-than-2-children-information-for-claimants

Official information regarding exceptions for child tax credit is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/child-tax-credit-exceptions-to-the-2-child-limit

What are the exceptions?

The two-child limit does not apply in the following circumstances:

Multiple births

You can get a child element/personal allowance for a third or subsequent child born as part of a multiple birth, except for the first child in that birth. So the exception applies to the second and any subsequent children in the multiple birth.

Example

Jane is on child tax credit. She has two children both born before 6 April 2017. On 10 June 2017, she gives birth to twins. They are her third and fourth children. However, as they were born in a multiple birth, the two-child limit applies only to one of them. Jane gets a total of three child elements.

Adoption

You can get a child element/personal allowance for a third or subsequent child if they are adopted from local authority care, or placed with you for adoption. But this does not apply if the child was adopted from abroad, or if you or your partner was the child’s step-parent immediately before you adopted them. Remember that the exception only applies regarding a third or subsequent child, and that adopted children still count towards the number of children in your family.

Examples

Wendy and Pete have two adopted children. In September 2018 Wendy gives birth to their third child. The two-child limit applies regarding that child.

Dawn and Don have two children both born before 6 April 2017. In September 2018 they adopt a child from local authority care. That child is their third child, but the two-child limit does not apply regarding that child as an exception applies.

Non-parental caring arrangements

You can get a child element/personal allowance for a third or subsequent child living with you if you are their ‘friend or family carer’. This means they are living with you as part of a formal caring arrangement, or an informal caring arrangement where it is likely the child would otherwise be looked after by the local authority. You (or your partner) must not be the child’s parent or step-parent.

A formal caring arrangement means where you care for the child under specific legislation, for example a Child Arrangements Order, Guardianship Order, Special Guardianship Order, Kinship Care Order (in Scotland) or a Permanence Order (in Scotland). The exception continues if one of these arrangements ended on the child’s 16th birthday but you have continued to be responsible for them.

Regarding an informal caring arrangement, you will be expected to provide supporting evidence from a local authority social worker using the ‘support for a child who is informally living with you’ form (available via https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-a-child-who-is-informally-living-with-you)

Also, if a child in your household aged under 16 for whom you are responsible has a child of their own, an exception applies regarding the new child if they are also in your household. For child tax credit, the parent of the new child could be aged under 16 or aged 16-19 and in education or training.

Non-consensual conception (including rape)

You can get a child element/personal allowance for a third or subsequent child if they are likely to have been born as a result of a rape or other ‘non-consensual conception’. This is defined as sexual intercourse to which you did not agree by choice, ‘or did not have the freedom and capacity to agree by choice’.

The DWP and HMRC know that dealing with this exception is extremely sensitive. You should not be questioned by DWP or HMRC staff about the incident other than to receive the claim and supporting information. The DWP charter about handling personal information is available via https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/personal-information-charter. The HMRC charter about handling personal information is available via https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/about/personal-information-charter.

The circumstances under which you will be regarded as not having the freedom or capacity to agree by choice include where you were in a coercive and controlling relationship with the child’s other parent that had a serious effect on you. That is defined as causing you to fear on at least two occasions that violence would be used against you, or causing you serious alarm of distress that had a serious adverse effect on your day-today activities.

In order for this exception to apply you must not now be living at the same address as the child’s other parent.

One of two approaches will be taken in deciding whether this exception applies:

  • If there has been a conviction for rape or coercive controlling behaviour in the UK or abroad, or an award in respect of a sexual offence, physical abuse or mental injury under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, and it is likely that the offence or injury resulted in the conception of your child, no further evidence will be required.
  • If there has not been a conviction or award as above, you must provide evidence from an ‘approved person’ (for example a rape charity, healthcare professional or social worker). The evidence must show that you had contact with them and that your circumstances are consistent with your child being born as a result of rape or other non-consensual conception. You are asked to send in a form (‘Support for a child conceived without your consent’, Form NCC1 4/17) completed by you and the approved person. Official information including the form and a list of approved persons is available via https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-a-child-conceived-without-your-consent. The form itself is available via https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/606978/nnc1.pdf.

Where you need to provide evidence from an approved person, the list of approved persons is:

Applying for an exception

For universal credit, the DWP say that when you tell them about a new child who is a third or subsequent child, you will be given information about the exceptions.

You can tell the DWP about a new child for your universal credit by either:

  • using your universal credit online account, if you have one, or
  • calling the live service helpline if you don’t have an online account.

For details including telephone numbers if you are having problems accessing your online account, see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-and-families-with-more-than-2-children-information-for-claimants

For the exceptions about non-parental caring arrangements and non-consensual conception, you may have to complete a form.

For child tax credit, HMRC say that you must send a letter requesting the exemption and supporting documents to the Tax Credit Office at Exceptions, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1 HZ. You should include the word ‘exception’ and your national insurance number at the top of your letter. For the exceptions about non-parental caring arrangements and non-consensual conception, you may have to complete a form.

If you are unsure or want to speak to someone first, contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0345 300 3900, textphone 0345 300 3909, and ask to speak to the specialist exceptions team.

Further details including what supporting documents are required for each exception are available via https://www.gov.uk/guidance/child-tax-credit-exceptions-to-the-2-child-limit

For housing benefit, contact the housing benefit section of your local authority (details should be on letters sent to you about your housing benefit). The local authority will check to see if an exception has been applied regarding the child for the purposes of your claim child tax credit. That is required if an exception is to be applied for the child regarding your housing benefit.

For income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance, there is no specific official information. Contact Jobcentre Plus to tell them about a new child and (where your child is a third or subsequent child) that you wish to claim an exception to the two child limit. For the exceptions about non-parental caring arrangements and non-consensual conception, you may have to complete a form. The DWP prefer you to contact Jobcentre Plus by telephone. The relevant numbers are:

Telephone: 0345 608 8545
Textphone: 0345 608 8551
Welsh Language: 0345 600 3018