LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Catholic groups in Great Britain are calling on the government to make changes to the benefit system to help families with the cost of living.

The Catholic Union and Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) are asking that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Nov. 22 announce an increase in child benefits, scrapping a two-child cap on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, and lifting the High Income Child Benefit Charge.

The two-child cap on benefits, introduced in 2017, limits the childcare element of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits to the first two children. It has been strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and various charities since its introduction.

The groups highlight the latest assessment of the two-child cap, published by the University of York, which found that the policy had “a negative impact on people’s mental health, increasing stress and anxiety, and harming their well-being, with knock-on effects on children’s opportunities and well-being.”

The university assessment also noted the policies have especially negative consequences for “larger families and renting households – which in turn means they disproportionately affect minority ethnic households, and those less able to increase their income through employment, including single parents and families with younger children.”

Nigel Parker, the Catholic Union Director, said an increase in the cost of living has stress-tested the benefits system, and it has been found wanting for many families.

“The impact of decisions made over the past 10 years are beginning to be seen firsthand, especially in relation to support for children,” he said.

“At a time when so many families are struggling, it is important that the Church continues to speak out on policies such as the two-child cap. We are pleased to have made this joint submission with CSAN as we continue our work to make the tax and benefit system fairer for families,” Parker said.

The CSAN and Catholic Union noted the latest government figures show that 1.5 million children live in families affected by the two-child cap, meaning the policy now reaches more than one in ten children in the United Kingdom, and these families are missing out on up to £3,235 ($4,000) a year.

In their statement, the Catholic groups said that given the continued challenges faced by household budgets because of inflation and rising energy costs, the UK government must ensure that there is a focus on making sure more children do not end up in poverty.

“Measures such as increasing child benefits, scraping the two-child cap on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, and lifting the High Income Child Benefit Charge, would all go some way to support children and families with the cost of living. For the purposes of this submission, we will limit our comments to the two-child cap, which both of our organizations have opposed since it was first introduced in 2017,” the CSAN and Catholic Union said in a statement.

The Catholic groups also noted Caritas Salford reports that evidence from their counselling service, which works with children experiencing poverty, highlights that these children are acutely aware of the financial challenges facing their parents, causing avoidable and unnecessary anxiety in their early years.

They said while Caritas Salford services do work with parents to help them organize their resources, they are also finding it necessary to support parents to try and safeguard the mental health, security, and well-being of their children in the face of crippling poverty.

Meanwhile, they also quoted the Bishop of Northampton, David Oakley, who recently said “at a time of ever-growing social and economic insecurity for families across England, the two-child cap on universal credit places an unnecessary and disproportionate burden on households, particularly for families that have suffered the pain of unemployment or disability.”

The Catholic groups said it was “abundantly clear” that the increases in the cost of living have been made worse for some households by a benefits system that fails to provide all children and families with the support they need.

“As we approach a General Election, this is likely to be one of the last fiscal events for this Government to make changes to the system,” the Catholic Union and Caritas Social Action Network said.