Benefit cap is discriminatory when applied to lone parents with young children, High Court rules

small child out side homeThe High Court in London has ruled that the application of the benefit cap to lone parents with children under two is unlawful because of its discriminatory impact upon children.

The judicial review challenge, which was supported by homelessness charity Shelter which intervened in the case, was brought by four lone parent families for whom the reduced benefit cap has, or will have, severe effects.

Two of the families had become homeless because of domestic violence. As a result of their caring responsibilities and the cost of childcare, they were unable to work the required 16 hours to escape the cap. As a result, their benefits were cut which left each of the claimants with a choice between rent and food and other essential items and unable to provide basic necessities for their children.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Andrew Collins ruled that the application of the revised benefit cap to lone parents with children under two amounts to unlawful discrimination and that “real damage” is being caused to the claimants and families like theirs across the country. Upon considering the impact of the benefit cap, Mr Justice Collins concluded that “real misery is being caused to no good purpose”.

The claimants’ legal team consisted of Rebekah Carrier at Hopkin Murray Beskine and barristers Ian Wise QC, Monckton Chambers; Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Doughty Street Chambers; and Michael Armitage, Monkton Chambers.

Ms Carrier said: “We are pleased that (yesterday’s) decision will relieve my clients – and other lone parent families around the country – from the unfair impacts of austerity measures which have prevented them from being able to provide basic necessities for their children.”

Shelter Scotland said it was pleased to see the judgement and called for the UK government to scrap the cap.

Adam Lang, head of communications and policy for Shelter Scotland, added: “Many of the families that come to us for advice say the benefit cap is pushing them into homelessness. Many desperately want to work but can’t make up the required hours of work a week due to childcare issues or insecure work like zero hours contracts.

“That’s why we are pleased that today’s high court judgement, which our colleagues in England provided supporting evidence for, has found in favour of lone parents with young children.”

The UK government intends to appeal the judgment.

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