Benefit cap doesn't breach human rights, says court

Tue, 05/11/2013 - 11:49 -- nick

A group of mothers has lost its claim that the benefit cap breaches their human rights.

The women, all from London, had brought the case on the grounds that it harms their right to a reasonable home and family life and breaches the rights of their children.

They had feared it would leave them destitute, with their lawyers arguing that it was a "cruel and arbitrary" measure and "reminiscent of the days of the workhouse".

Their claim for a judicial review of the cap was rejected by Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Bean, although they did admit that many people would believe the £500 weekly limit for families is "too parsimonious".

Courts need to see overwhelming evidence that a government law breaks other laws if they are to overturn it, but they did not find this with the cap.

Instead they found it " is ultimately a policy issue, and for the reasons we have given we do not think it can be said that the scheme is so manifestly unfair or disproportionate as to justify an interference by the courts."

The cap limits single people to a maximum of £350 each week in benefits, and couples and those with children to £500.

In practice most of the people who have been capped have lived in London due to the high cost of property there.

This has lead to the criticism that government accusations that some claimants are living extravagant lifestyles are wrong; housing benefit is the only payment that wasn't capped before, and this is paid straight to landlords and doesn't affect spending money.

The comparison with average earnings is also faulty; a claiming household that has many children and lives in London will need more income than a childless couple living outside it.

A DWP spokesperson said:

We are very pleased that the court has ruled that the benefit cap complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.

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 earnings.

Main Stories: