High Court to hear housing benefit challenge
A High Court challenge against the legality of housing benefits cuts is due to be heard today.
Child Poverty Action Group was granted a fast-track judicial review into caps on local housing allowance in early June.
The charity is challenging the national cap on local housing allowance payments made to tenants in the private rented sector, and a restriction preventing payments exceeding the cost of renting a four-bed home, regardless of household size.
The charity will argue that the changes will make a large area of central London inaccessible to housing benefit claimants in the private rented sector, and are therefore contrary to the original intention to prevent homelessness.
CPAG will also argue that the caps will disproportionately hit ethnic groups and lone parents. It will claim the government failed to have due regard to the general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
‘The cuts will mean the social cleansing of parts of London with families being forced out of their homes, away from their jobs, and into less suitable, often poorer quality and more cramped housing.’
Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said: ‘We are going to the High Court to protect Britain from becoming a country where longstanding, mixed communities are turned into private members clubs for the wealthy.
‘The prime minister promised to prioritise poverty and said that the test of his policies would be how they help the most disadvantaged, not the rich, yet these measures will make the poor poorer and hurt and uproot families relying on housing benefit to help pay the rent.
‘These measures will make it much harder for a government already facing the prospect of rising child poverty figures as a result of its welfare cuts to meet the legally binding target to end child poverty by 2020.’
CPAG claims that up to 9,000 households - including more than 20,000 children - could be forced to move from their homes as a result of the reforms.
The figures have been disputed by the Department for Work and Pensions, which claims a ‘tiny minority’ will be forced out of their homes.
Ms Garnham said: ‘Housing Benefit is there as basic safety net for all of us so that if we’re on low incomes or lose our jobs, we don’t also lose our homes and can stay near family, friends and where we work.
‘London will be worst affected of all. The cuts will mean the social cleansing of parts of London with families being forced out of their homes, away from their jobs, and into less suitable, often poorer quality and more cramped housing.
‘Children will be forced to move away from their school, their friends, their neighbourhood and their extended family. For some this may include being forced to move away from one of their parents, most often their Dad.’
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We are unable to comment on the Judicial Review as it is currently being heard in court. However it’s absolutely vital that we take urgent steps to manage the Housing Benefit expenditure, which has been spiralling out of control for a decade. It’s the right and fair thing to do and the changes we have made have been heavily scrutinized by Parliament.’
Judgement on the challenge is due to be given in late July or early August.