Lone parents lose Supreme Court fight over benefit cap

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

Supreme Court justices, sitting in London on Wednesday, rejected their 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 breaches human rights laws.

Lord Wilson, announcing the decision, described the legislation which 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 has had a “major impact on lone parents with children under school age” because it “is 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 £23,000 a year if living in London, or £20,000 a year elsewhere, the benefits should – subject to various ways of escaping from it – be capped at those levels.

One way of escaping 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 say the cap has “drastically” reduced housing benefits, leaving many families unable to afford basic life necessities to care for their children.

It was argued they should be exempted because of the difficulty for the parent to find work compatible with his or her childcare responsibilities.

Lord Wilson said the effect on the parents and particularly on their children “is 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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