Supreme Court rules against challenge to the benefit cap

By agency reporter
May 15, 2019

The Supreme Court has today (15 May 2019) ruled against a challenge to the Government’s benefit cap policy brought by six lone parents and their children. Two of the lone parents and their children were represented by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).  

Responding to the decision, CPAG’s Head of Strategic Litigation Carla Clarke said: “The Supreme Court’s judgment is hugely disappointing.  The UK’s highest court has upheld a law and a policy that is increasing poverty while failing to deliver on its principal aim of work incentivisation.  Only five per cent of capped households are more likely to move into work because of the cap – with the large majority not otherwise being required to work because of young children or an illness or disability. Almost three quarters of capped households are lone parent families where one adult, usually a mother, is both the main breadwinner and carer. There are very real and practical reasons, recognised by the court, as to why such a lone parent struggles to find sufficient work to escape the cap. Yet, while failing to achieve its aim of getting such lone parents into work because of those wider obstacles they face, the cap, in the words of the court, ‘push[es] a family well below the poverty line.’  We continue to believe that the cap is structurally flawed and that pushing families who can't work deeper into poverty is totally unacceptable.

“We would like to pay tribute to our two clients who were prepared to see this legal challenge through not just for their own families but in the hope of ensuring that others did not have to face similar hardships.”

The benefit cap restricts the total amount of benefits which households can receive if they are not working or are only employed for a few hours.  The cap is set at £23,000 for couples/lone parents in Greater London and £20,000 for couples/lone parents outside the capital.

The latest benefit cap statistics show that in February 2019 71 per cent of capped households were single-parent families. Of the single parent households who had their housing benefit capped, 76 per cent had a child under five and 25 per cent had a child under two.

CPAG’s clients’ appeal was joined with a similar appeal brought by Hopkin Murray Beskine on behalf of four lone parents with children aged under two and their children.  The two cases were heard together in the Supreme Court on 17-19 July 2018.  

* Read the Supreme Court judgement here

* More information on the case here

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

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