Wednesday, 23 April 2014

DWP faces legal challenge over benefit cap

Four families have launched a legal challenge against the government’s benefit cap on the grounds it is ‘discriminatory and unreasonable’.

The families have issued judicial review proceedings against the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith today at London’s High Court.

Under the policy, which has been applied since 15 April in four boroughs including Haringey where one of the families lives, the government has capped total household benefits at £500 a week for couples and lone parents, and £350 a week for single adults.

The government plans to roll the cap out across the rest of the country from 15 July.

The eight claimants – one parent and one child from each family – will challenge Part 8A of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 which was inserted as part of the welfare reform act last year.

They will argue that the regulations are discriminatory and unreasonable. In addition, they will argue that the secretary of state did not take into account the impact of the policy on women, children, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, and carers when formulating the policy.

Hopkin Murray Beskine, the law firm representing the families, said that two of the families are expected to immediately fall into rent arrears and face eviction and street homelessness.

This is because their rent exceeds £500 a week.

HMB added that two of the families have fled domestic violence in circumstances where they were financially reliant upon their abusive partners and now risk losing their homes.

The families have not been named because two of the women are at risk of violence from their ex-husbands.

The claims are supported by charity Women’s Aid which has submitted witness evidence.

Rebekah Carrier, solicitor at HMB said: ‘This is a cruel and misguided policy.  It will have a catastrophic impact on our clients and many thousands more vulnerable children and adults.  They face street homelessness and starvation. 

‘A year ago the Children’s Commissioner warned the government that these changes would result in a sharp increase in child poverty and homelessness, with a disproportionate impact upon disabled children and children of disabled parents, and some BME groups. The difficulties now faced by my clients were predictable and avoidable.’

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: ‘We are confident that the benefit cap measures are lawful and they do not discriminate against any groups.

‘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 income.’

Readers' comments (20)

  • IDS doesn't care so long as he gets his way. Housing as a commodity rather than a home is a busted flush

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  • michael barratt

    The benefit cap is on top of local authority direct payment cuts, council tax cuts and bedroom tax cuts etc, what is IDS/Osbourne and Co trying to do, destroy the lives of people and their families who cannot work?

    Last night on television (Channel 4 News) Osbourne claimed that new large infrastructure projects had been made possible by reducing welfare spending, surely that is akin to funding a new business venture by raiding the church poor box?

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  • Daedalus

    I agree with most of the postings on benefits cuts, on most of the forums.

    However, there is one element I can't agree with. A person on benefits living in a property which can barely be afforded by somebody living on 3 or 4 times the average wage is totally and utterly wrong.

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  • munchboss

    well said michael , what makes me totally sick oveer all the cuts ,caps and cut backs is the fact if we we all decided to be rapeists ,child abusers and the worsat scum of the country ,we would then all be excempt from most of these changes , and that makes me sick to the bone , really by implementing these policies the condems have put themselfs in the situation of makeing poor and sick people worst of and those who ofend the nation totally untouchable, that is totally wrong impo

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  • Please explain to me why perfectly healthy people who are able to work should actually get more in benefits than the rest of us who do go out to work? I agree with the benefit cap £2000 a month is more than most people make a month by working full time and they have to cope with rent/mortgage, food etc. If so much money wasn't being spent on these people then the money could be properly used to support those in trouble, disabled or who genuinely have a need. There has to be a method for encouraging people to go to work who are able rather than simply believing that they are entitled to money when they make no contribution to society or use getting pregnant as an excuse not to work.

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  • It would be simpler to put a rent cap in place, these prices that are being charged are extortionate, average property to let is valued at £200,000 which is equal to a £700 a month mortgage @ 5%, this equals £22.58 a day for a 31 day month. Why don't we pay £45.16 a day, which is twice the amount and includes profit and maintenance and is cheaper (£1400) than what is proposed now. (£2000 for 4 weeks 28 days.)

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  • Daniel Sweeney

    I wonder how many families are actually in receipt of the 2k per month figure? There were high profile cases in a couple of London Boroughs but that only indicates that there were problems in two london boroughs. The welfare reform agenda on the surface is about getting people into work and being independant. Both are worthwhile aims. However, in the middle of a recessionthe jobs arent there. By personalising the issue, the Govt has demonised the poor and uses anecdote instead of robust evidence base. On the equality issue, teating everyone the same is not the same thing as promoting equality of opportunity. The DDA for eamaple (SEA for all you lucky folks in England and Wales shire) explicitly recognises this with the REasonable adjustment duty. I would imagine that a challenge on the failure to make reasonable adjustment basis would knock the cap into the bin. Unless of course the Govt relies on 'statutory permission' but the European Court is likely to take a dim view of a legislature that that introduces laws to deliberately undermine the relevant framework directive.

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  • Quite so Sarah - in fact the £26000 pa benefit cap needs a gross salary in excess of £35000 - which is close to the 85th percentile - where barely 1 worker in every 7 earns that much.

    If we ask why has this inequality between average worker - versus those receiving highest level of benefits come about - the answer probably is because real UK wages have been falling for possibly as long as 2 decades.

    Benefit levels on the other hand have been more closely linked to prices - rather than wages - and thus for some families who are wholly reliant on benefits - they have over time become relatively better off (in total benefit terms) compared to the average net income.

    The crucial issue with the current stick approach to get the unemployed in to work - is lack of jobs.

    It would seem that with the falling need for paid labour - due to ongoing automation/computerisation - as well as globalisation - the only way we are going to reduce unemployment per se - is to respread available work around available workforce. In short job sharing.

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  • Bill - be interested to know where you got the figure of £200k as value of average PRS property.

    In the north many let properties mat be worth less than 50k - contrasting to London where some flats can be worth well over 500k - and will have correspondingly high rents.

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  • michael barratt

    Why do apologists for Cameron & CO concentrate upon extreme examples and not how Coalition benefits cuts are cruelly affecting disabled people up and down the country? If Cameron and Co want to find capital for infrastructure project and/or cut monetary deficits then introduce a wealth taxes, second home taxes, windfall taxes on excessive profits and make large corporations pay fair rates of tax if the want to operate in the UK.

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