British government’s controversial benefit cuts survive legal challenges

Bedroom tax and benefits cap legal, rules court of appeal

Campaigners demonstrate yesterday outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London against the British government’s reform to limit housing benefit, known as the bedroom tax. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Campaigners demonstrate yesterday outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London against the British government’s reform to limit housing benefit, known as the bedroom tax. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 01:00


The British government’s controversial welfare reforms, including a £500-a-week cap on benefits and cuts to housing benefit, have overcome two major legal challenges, even though judges accepted they would cause hardship.

The Court of Appeal challenge to the benefits cap was taken by two single mothers, each living with three children. They both claim that they split up with their partners after being physically and sexually abused by them.

Up to last April, the first woman received £585.40 per week in benefits, while the second receives £550, though she is faced shortly with a rent increase from a private landlord. Both now receive the £500 maximum allowed.


Debate
Giving the ruling, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Longmore, said the welfare cap “reflects the political judgment” of the government and had “been endorsed by parliament after considerable debate”.

They rejected the argument the cap was unlawful because it discriminated against women, particularly victims of domestic violence, saying it “plainly does have a reasonable foundation”.

Saying the women were “baffled” by the judgment, solicitor Rebekah Carrier said they were considering a Supreme Court challenge.

Meanwhile, the operation of housing benefit cuts – one of the government’s most controversial policies – is lawful, the Court of Appeal decided, saying major efforts had been made to ensure disabled people would not be discriminated against.

Since last April, council tenants have lost £14 a week from their housing benefit they are deemed to have an unneeded extra bedroom – a measure that has put some people into debt, while others have had to move to smaller properties.