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

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

Published On: 15/03/2018|
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