Families who have escaped domestic violence are challenging the coalition government’s benefit cap in the Court of Appeal today. The families are appealing a High Court decision in November which found the £26,000-a-year cap did not breach human rights laws and were not disproportionate.
The benefit cap limits total household benefits to £500 per week. Campaign groups, including Women Against Rape, argue that this affects women who have fled their homes because of domestic violence and who are then hit with the benefit cap if they live in hostels or refuges with more expensive rents.
Solicitor Rebekah Carrier, of Hopkin Murray Beskine, is representing the families. She said:
‘Two of the families have fled domestic violence in circumstances where they were financially reliant upon their abusive partners. They now face a stark choice between descending further into poverty and risking losing their homes, or returning to their abusers in order to escape the imposition of the cap.’
Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape said:
‘We call on the government to put the safety of women and children first by lifting the benefit cap so no one is trapped in a violent relationship where they risk injury, trauma and even death.’
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We remain confident that the benefit cap measures are lawful. The benefit cap sets a fair limit to what people can expect to get from the welfare system – so that claimants cannot receive more than £500 a week, the average household earnings.’
The legal challenge is also being supported by the Child Poverty Action Group, Shelter and the Women’s Aid Federation.
28 January 2014 | By Carl Brown