Lone mothers lose legal challenge to benefit cap

Three lone mothers and their children have lost a legal challenge to the coalition government's household benefit cap. Judges in the High Court ruled that regulations brought in by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith are lawful and do not breach human rights under European law.

The £500-a-week cap affects housing benefit, child benefit and child tax credit for families not working enough hours to get working tax credit.

Lawyers acting for the families argued that the cap unlawfully discriminates against children and women, particularly those affected by domestic violence. They described the cap as a 'cruel and arbitrary' policy that will trap vulnerable women in violent relationships, and reduce capped household income to a level that will make it it impossible for parents to provide adequate food, clothing and other essentials for their children.

But the Court dismissed the claim for a judicial review. It ruled that although the cap may be seen by some to be 'too parsimonious', it is consistent with a 'broad political concept of fairness'.

The government said it was 'very pleased' at the High Court's ruling. It said: 'The benefit cap sets a fair limit to what people can expect to get from the welfare system'.

SourceJS & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions & Ors, High Court 5 November 2013
LinksJudgement | DWP press release | BBC report | Guardian report

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Publication date: 
Nov 5 2013