Board of Deputies and Charedi leaders meet Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary over welfare squeeze on larger families

Representatives of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Charedi community met today with Owen Smith MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, to discuss the serious challenges to larger families posed by the new Welfare Act.

The new Act caps child benefit to two children, which could affect many in the Jewish community, but will particularly impact on the Charedi community, where larger families are the norm.

Owen Smith pledged to support the Jewish community in seeking to oppose this deeply damaging legislation

Jewish campaigners will continue to engage with the Department for Work and Pensions to see whether changes can be made that will mitigate these challenges.

The group also discussed recent incidents of antisemitism in the Labour Party, about which Owen Smith shared his concern.

Board of Deputies Chief Executive, Gillian Merron, said, “We are deeply concerned about the consequences of the legislation for larger families in our community, particularly in the Charedi sector. In theory, the reforms are supposed to encourage more people in to work, but as it currently stands they look set to have the opposite effect. We will continue to work with Interlink and other relevant colleagues to see what measures can be put in place to prevent some of the most harmful potential outcomes.”

Rabbi Pinter, said: “The consequences of this change could be very serious for thousands of working families in the fastest growing part of the Jewish community. I truly believe that the two-child limit breaches human rights and equalities principles. There could also be serious unplanned consequences – like a death, redundancy or the onset of a disability – which could suddenly throw a family in to dire poverty, are not justifiable. A compassionate society should not punish those who fall in to difficult circumstances through no fault of their own. I want to thank Interlink and the Board of Deputies for their ongoing engagement and support in this matter of strategic importance to the community.”

The community was represented by Gillian Merron and Phil Rosenberg from the Board of Deputies, Chaya Spitz from the Interlink Foundation and Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, Principal of Yesodei HaTorah Senior Girls’ School.


The Jewish community’s main concerns about the Act are as follows:


  • The Act will undermine the financial security of larger families, who stand to lose up to £2,780 for each additional child beyond the first two.


  • By 2020/21, it is estimated that at least two million children will be affected, many of whom are already in, or at risk of, poverty. Many families will be unable to meet their children’s essential needs.


  • The majority of those affected are working families and cutting their support will send an unhelpful message about the rewards of work.


  • This measure will impact on many families who already have three or more children if they make a new claim for Universal Credit as a result of common, but unpredictable, life events, such as job loss or the onset of disability.


  • These changes will also impact negatively on family life, and have unintended consequences on bereaved parents, victims of domestic violence, and kinship carers.

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