7-judge Supreme Court hears argument in Benefit Cap challenge

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Seven judges of the Supreme Court including the President Baroness Hale and Deputy President Lord Reed has heard argument over 2 ½ days (17-19 July 2018) in the challenge to the Governments’ Revised Benefit Cap. The lead DS appellants and the DA appellants, argue that the government’s flagship Benefit Cap, in the revised form introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, is unlawful in its application to them. The DS Appellants argue that the Benefit Cap is unlawful in its application to lone parents and their children, and to women, because it constitutes unjustified discrimination against them contrary to Article 14 ECHR. The Benefit Cap overwhelmingly affects lone parents, the vast majority of whom are female, because lone parents find it far harder to undertake a sufficient amount of work (16 hours / week) whilst still caring for children and especially young children. Couples who might be subjected to the Cap are able to share the same caring responsibilities, and undertake a similar amount of work, between two adults. As a result the vast majority of those affected by the Revised Cap are female lone parents, to whom the government’s main justification of the measure, namely incentivising work, is least applicable. The DS appellants also argue in the alternative that the Cap is not justified at least in relation to lone parents with children under five years old for whom the difficulties of juggling work and care are further exacerbated. A second group of appellants, the DA appellants, argue that the Cap is unlawful in its application to children under two. The court’s decision will have implications for the tens of thousands of benefit claimants, and hundreds of thousands of children, who have been affected by the Cap so as to deprive them of the subsistence benefits which the government itself otherwise considers to be necessary to meet their subsistence needs. The court’s judgment is also likely to give guidance on a range of important legal issues including the relevance of Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in human rights cases. Richard Drabble QC and Tim Buley acted for the DS Appellants, instructed by Carla Clarke of Child Poverty Action Group.

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