The Benefit Cap causes real misery to no good purpose. While I agree with this sentiment it is not mine. It comes from the closing sentence of a High Court judgement which declares unlawful the Government’s policy of capping the benefits of single parents with children under 2 years old. The full judgement is a forensic and impartial description of the Cap and its consequences and its conclusions are all the more damning because of it.
The stated aim of the Benefit Cap is to incentivise work by limiting the amount of benefits out-of-work families can receive. The court case rested on the really simple observation – if someone is unable to work what is the point of incentivising them by cutting their family’s benefits? This question becomes much sharper when you recognise, as the court did, that the benefit cut “incentive” causes a great deal of hardship to young children.
If you think the Benefit Cap is aimed at unemployed people who are able to work but for one reason or another, you are not alone and you are 84% wrong. Only 16% of capped families are unemployed and able to work.I go through the last set of Benefit Cap figure on a blog done for Ekklesia here The vast majority of families hit by the Cap are offered benefits because they are not able to work either because they are caring for young children or because they are sick.Those who were unable to work because they were looking after sick or disabled (usually elderly) relatives received an exemption from the cap in November. The same set of changes trebled the number … Continue reading
Mr Justice Collins made very clear his view that it is “manifestly without reasonable foundation” to believe that cutting the benefits of single parent families with very young children, will help them get into work. The case looked only at single parent families, but it hard to believe it is any less absurd to think that benefit cut make the sick well.
The Government has made known its intention to appeal to the Supreme Court. The 4 single parent families who, supported by Shelter, brought this case will need to make the it again. It is clear that the policy is discriminatory against women, that it contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,these points were confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2013 and that as the High Court has said “the system simply is not working with any degree of fairness” towards claimants such as these single parents. The question that will be asked of the Supreme Court is – despite these failings does the Benefit Cap remain legal?
As I have discussed before the Benefit Cap is in almost every conceivable way terrible but remains hugely popular because it taps into the negative views that the British public has around the benefits system and the people it supports. What is clear is that when the rhetoric is stripped away and the policy is judged on its own merits it is found severely wanting.
The Churches have opposed the Cap since it was first talked about 7 years ago and will continue campaign against it because it is simply wrong that already impoverished children are forced to go without as a way of putting pressure on their parents. It cannot be right that we recognise that children have unmet needs and then ignore them.
|↑1||I go through the last set of Benefit Cap figure on a blog done for Ekklesia here|
|↑2||Those who were unable to work because they were looking after sick or disabled (usually elderly) relatives received an exemption from the cap in November. The same set of changes trebled the number of families looking after children that were capped|
|↑3||these points were confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2013|