Benefit cap – CPAG intervention – R(SG and others) v SSWP formerly JS and others
This case was heard in the Supreme Court on 29 and 30 April 2014. The court handed down judgment on Wednesday 18 March. Read our press release.
CPAG is intervening in an appeal before the Supreme Court against the benefit cap brought by two single mothers who are victims of domestic violence. The cap, introduced in 2013, limits the total benefits an unemployed family can receive to £500 per week, which the government says is the average wage of a working household. The cap includes housing benefit and children's benefits and is applied regardless of family size or circumstances.
The appellants, who are represented by solicitors’ firm Hopkin Murray Beskine, are both single mothers with three children who have fled domestic violence and now face destitution or homelessness as a result of the cap. In one case the mother and children are described as having suffered "horrific physical and emotional abuse". The mothers say they cannot find work because of the trauma they have suffered and the demands of looking after pre-school children. Both families live in outer London, but the high cost of temporary accommodation has pushed them into the cap.
They argue that the cap has been implemented in a way that discriminates against them as women who are victims of domestic violence, breaches their right to private and family life and is irrational under common law. Their initial claim for judicial review was dismissed in November 2013 by the High Court in R(JS and others) v SSWP  EWHC 3350 (QB) and the Court of Appeal in SG and others v SSWP  EWCA Civ 156.
The case was heard in the Supreme Court on 29 and 30 April 2014.
CPAG, together with Shelter and Women’s Aid, have provided expert evidence and arguments to assist the court in considering the impact of the cap on vulnerable families. CPAG’s evidence shows that amongst other things:
- The cap disproportionately affects single mothers with children, particularly if they are homeless or victims of domestic violence, even though these are the families that find it hardest to avoid the impact of the cap by moving, budgeting or going into work.
- The cap as implemented is not fair. By including within the cap benefits that are also paid to working families (including child benefit, child tax credit and housing benefit) the Government has failed to achieve its stated aim of “fairness” between working and non-working families. For example, a single mother with four children who is working and earning the average wage could be entitled to £546.84 per week in state support in addition to her wages. A similar family earning the minimum wage would still be at least £100 better off than they would on out of work benefits, even without the cap.
- The cap as implemented does not achieve savings to the public purse. When the incidental costs are factored in, including implementation costs, discretionary housing payments and costs to homelessness and social services departments, there is evidence that the cap will result in a “net cost”.