Artwork by Julia Giles

Benefit cap challenge to go to Supreme Court following Court of Appeal ruling

The Court of Appeal today handed down judgment in an appeal by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions against a High Court ruling last summer that the benefit cap was not lawful when applied to lone parent families with very young children (under 2 years old).

The judicial review challenge heard last year, brought by four lone parent families, concerned the reduced benefit cap introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. The revised benefit cap drastically reduced housing benefits, leaving lone parent families across the country unable to afford basic  necessities, facing homelessness and a choice between rent and food. Finding for the families, Mr Justice Collins had 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.

By a majority of two to one, the Court of Appeal today allowed the Government’s appeal, but in doing so did however find that the High Court was entitled to find that the revised cap was again in breach of the UK’s international obligations to children. In addition, recognising the real public importance of the issues raised, the Court of Appeal has taken the very unusual step of granting permission to appeal to the Supreme Court against its own judgment. This means that the lawfulness of the benefit cap is going to be considered again at the very highest level of the judicial system.

Rebekah Carrier, the solicitor acting for the families, said:

“The benefit cap has had a catastrophic impact upon vulnerable lone parent families and children across the country. My clients were delighted when the High Court recognised the misery that the cap causes to families like theirs. They were very disappointed when the Secretary of State decided to bring this appeal while taking no action whatsoever to address the implications of the High Court’s ruling. In the months since the High Court hearing the cap has continued to force thousands of families into homelessness and reliance on food banks. Many thousands of children continues to suffer the consequencesof poverty caused by the benefit cap, which has severe long term effects on their health and well-being.  They are very disappointed with the outcome of the appeal but pleased that the Court has recognised how very important this case is by granting permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Given that the latest figures from the government show that 15,000 lone parent families with babies and toddlers are affected by the cap, we hope that the Supreme Court will be able to consider this case at the earliest possible opportunity”


The families’ legal team (solicitor Rebekah Carrier at Hopkin Murray Beskine and barristers Ian Wise QC, Monckton Chambers, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Doughty Street Chambers and Michael Armitage, Monkton Chambers) had argued that the Secretary of State had failed to take into account the disproportionate impact of the benefit cap on lone parents, who are overwhelmingly women, and their children.

 

A link to the judgment is here



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