05:46, May 15 90 0 theguardian.com

2019-05-15 05:46:05
Lone parents lose benefits cap challenges at supreme court

Lone parents and their children have lost challenges against the government’s benefit cap at the UK’s highest court.

Supreme court justices, sitting in London on Wednesday, rejected the appeals in cases brought against the work and pensions secretary over the lawfulness of the measure by a majority of five to two.

Campaigners say the “discriminatory” reduced cap targets the wrong people and is not achieving its stated aims. A panel of judges were asked at a hearing last year to rule on whether the revised cap breached human rights laws.

Lord Wilson, announcing the decision, described the legislation that introduced the revised cap as “tough”, and said the court had been faced with a difficult decision on the appeals.

The evidence had persuaded all seven justices that the cap had a major impact on lone parents with children under school age because it was “particularly difficult for them to go out to work”.

The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 provides that where families receive state benefits of a specified character of more than £20,000 a year, or £23,000 a year if living in London, the benefits should – subject to various exemptions – be capped at those levels.

One way of avoiding the cap is for the adults to go out to work: a lone parent must do so for 16 hours a week. But lawyers for lone parents said the cap had “drastically” reduced housing benefits, leaving many families unable to afford basic necessities to care for their children.

It was argued they should be exempted because of the difficulty in finding work compatible with childcare responsibilities.

Lord Wilson said the effect on the parents and particularly on their children was “often harsh”. But in concluding that the appeals “must fail”, the majority considered, said Lord Wilson, that “we cannot go so far as to say that this application of the cap is manifestly without foundation”.

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