Artwork by Julia Giles

Benefit Cap - Test cases issued for disabled grandmother and her carer


A disabled grandmother and her granddaughter who provides full time care for her have this week issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, challenging the inclusion of Carer’s Allowance in the ‘benefit cap.’  The benefit cap policy has been in force across the country since September 2013. 

The government has already conceded that the cap had unintended consequences for victims of domestic violence living in women’s refuges, and after the families case was heard in the Court of Appeal, Ian Duncan Smith with no fanfare amended the regulations to remove women’s refuges from the cap.

The proceedings issued this week highlight another consequence of the cap, which may surprise those who consider that the cap achieves fairness. Included in the group of families who are capped are those who receive Carer’s Allowance. To qualify for Carer’s Allowance the benefit claimant has to be providing upwards of 35 hours a week care to a severely disabled person. This means that anyone receiving Carer’s Allowance is by definition not available to work, because they must be providing care.

The family involved in the judicial review sought legal advice when the carer was about to become homeless. Her local council told her that because of the benefit cap she could not be housed in London and so would be provided with housing in Birmingham. This was devastating news not just for the carer, but for her grandmother who relies on her granddaughter to wash her, dress her, and help her with personal and intimate care. The family are trapped. If the carer continues to provide the essential care needed, she will not be able to pay her rent. But if she doesn’t her grandmother’s fragile mental health will suffer, and the state will have to pay for a stranger to provide her care.

The carer, a young woman brought up by her grandmother and committed to providing her with the support she needs says:

I had understood that the benefit cap was meant to encourage people to work and to address the problem of children growing up in workless families. I do not understand why it should apply to me as I do work, looking after my grandmother. If I did not care for my grandmother, then I suppose that we would have to ask the Council to pay for care for her. It would certainly cost the state more to pay someone to provide the care that I provide, and my grandmother would be very distressed about having care provided by strangers. Indeed, I expect that both her mental and physical health would rapidly deteriorate if this happened. I do not feel that I would be able to allow this to happen, and I do not understand why the government would think it was better for the state to care for my grandmother instead of her own family.
 



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