Court of Appeal leaves door open for wider challenge on lower benefit cap

By agency reporter
March 16, 2018

On 15 March 2018 the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court ruling that the lower benefit cap unlawfully discriminates against lone parents with children aged under two, but left the door open for a wider challenge to the lawfulness of the cap as it applies to all lone parents.

The Court ruled that the case had not demonstrated that lone parents of children aged under two were substantially more disadvantaged by the cap than lone parents in general.

Commenting on the judgment, Child Poverty Action Group solicitor Carla Clarke said, “The judgement is extremely disappointing for lone parents with children aged under two who have a heightened risk of being capped. There is an absurdity about a Government policy which on the one hand recognises that lone parents of young children should not be expected to work but on the other punishes them and their children with the cap if they don’t have a paid job.

“Over 70 per cent of capped families are headed by a lone parent, the large majority of whom are women. Our own upcoming High Court case on behalf of two lone mothers and their families takes a wider approach than today’s case, challenging the lawfulness of the cap as it applies to lone parents irrespective of the age of their youngest child. The cap is leaving so many lone parents stranded – unable to cut their outgoings any further yet unable to escape the cap by finding a paid job which they can combine with their multiple caring responsibilities, precisely because they are caring for children alone, something the Court of Appeal recognised. Despite today’s judgment, we hope that the end of this irrational policy is not too far away.”

In November 2016 the threshold at which the benefit cap is applied was lowered to £23,000 for Greater London and £20,000 for the rest of the UK.

Child Poverty Action Group's (CPAG) forthcoming case is listed for a High Court hearing on 26 and 27 March 2018. It argues that the revised (lower) cap unlawfully discriminates against lone parents and their children. The lowered cap disproportionately impacts on lone parents and their children, who are far more likely to be capped and are least likely to be able to avoid its effects due to their caring responsibilities. Evidence shows that the lowered cap is already having a stark adverse effect on vulnerable non-working families.

* More information on CPAG’s forthcoming case is here

* Child Poverty Action Group http://www.cpag.org.uk/

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