High Court rules that government’s “benefit cap” is unlawful

22 Jun 2017

In a high-profile judgment DA and others v SSWP handed down today, the High Court (Collins J) has declared that the government’s controversial “benefit cap” policy is unlawful. An earlier version of the policy was considered by the Supreme Court in SG, in which the Supreme Court narrowly (by a 3-2 majority) ruled that the cap did not unlawfully discriminate against women, but also held (by a different 3-2 majority) that the cap contravened the UK’s obligations under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a result of its drastic impact on children. In today’s judgment, the High Court has not only re-affirmed that the cap on benefits breaches the UK’s international obligations in respect of children, but that the revised version of the policy also discriminates against lone parents of children under two, as well as against such children in their own right.

The judicial review challenge, brought by four lone parent families, concerned the reduced benefit cap introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. The revised benefit cap drastically reduced housing benefits, leaving lone parent families across the country unable to afford basic life necessities to care for their children. Mr Justice Collins has ruled that the application of the revised benefit cap to lone parents with children under two amounts to unlawful discrimination and that “real damage” is being caused to the Claimants and families like theirs across the country. Upon considering the impact of the benefit cap, Mr Justice Collins concluded that “real misery is being caused to no good purpose.”

The government has been granted permission to appeal.

The judgment has already attracted substantial coverage in the print and broadcast media – The Independent, BBC.

A press release summarising the judgment is available here.

Monckton’s Ian Wise QC and Michael Armitage acted (along with Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC of Doughty Street Chambers) for the successful Claimants, instructed by Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine solicitors. Ian Wise QC also acted for the Claimants in the SG case.

To read the case note written by Imogen Proud, please click here.