Large Jewish families had some good news on Friday after the Government announced that children born before 2017 would be exempt from the two-child benefits cap.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said the move would help 15,000 families, but did not commit to scrapping the cap altogether.
Rudd’s announcement was the Government’s latest U-turn over the much-derided Universal Credit system, which anti-poverty campaigners say will hit the poorest hardest.
The Orthodox Jewish community is well known for its large families, with birth-rates increasing by about 35 percent in the last ten years, so Jewish groups welcomed the Government’s change of heart.
“After years of campaigning against this punitive policy, we welcome this announcement as a step in the right direction,” said Board of Deputies’ vice-president Edwin Shuker.
“The two-child policy is by definition an attack on the family and it disproportionately affects religious communities and the poorest in our society. The Government should now listen to the recommendation of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, whose recent report calls for an immediate rethink of this damaging policy.”
Rudd said the change was “compassionate and fair” but Labour said it “does not go far enough,” calling for the Government to scrap the two-child limit once and for all.
Community leaders were quick to respond, with Rabbi Avroham Pinter, principal of Stamford Hill school Yesodeh HaTorah, echoing Labour’s call for Rudd to ditch the cap altogether.
Levi Shapiro, director of the Stamford Hill based umbrella group Jewish Community Council (JCC), which lobbied the Government on this area, said it would have “a very damaging effect” on the Jewish community in Stamford Hill.
“The average family here is very large, up to nine or ten people, so you can imagine the damaging effect of this policy. We’re grateful for the Government for listening and pulling back, but we would ask that it goes further, to include children born after 2017 too. The policy should be completely scrapped.”
He added: “As a people, we are hard-working and we live by tradition. Part of that tradition is to grow families. Enforcing this policy would force us to reconsider doing so, which would go against our values. The community is very worried.”
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”