Two mums have lost a landmark Supreme Court fight against the Tories’ cruel two-child benefits limit.
Justices today unanimously dismissed the appeal, which had claimed the policy breaches the human rights to a private life; to marry and form a family; and to be protected from discrimination.
If the mums had won, around a million children could have benefited.
Campaigners blasted the “hugely disappointing” judgement, after unsuccessful fights in the High Court and Court of Appeal, and are now considering a battle in the European Court of Human Rights.
Supreme Court President Lord Reed did accept women and large families were worse hit.
But he declared that because Parliament made that decision and had the “reasonable justification” of cutting the deficit, it could not be struck down by the courts.
The battle was brought by two anonymous mums, SC and CB, who had their youngest children shortly after the limit took force in April 2017.
CB said she was unable to hold birthday parties for her five children, the first four of whom were born into an abusive relationship.
And SC said she “manages but it is not easy” after the DWP refused to raise £115-a-week Child Tax Credit for her youngest child.
Welfare-slashing Tory George Osborne’s limit bans Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit for “third or subsequent” children born since April 2017, plunging thousands into poverty.
There are exemptions for twins or children born of rape, but raped mothers must document the fact of their ordeal on an official form.
The mums’ barrister, Richard Drabble QC, earlier said the limit created “deep and inescapable child poverty” and “imposes pressure to abstain altogether from sexual activity, bring up children in deep poverty, or contravene a moral belief.
“Therefore, it has a very direct impact on people with philosophical or religious objection to abortion.”
But Supreme Court President Lord Reed said today: “The court concludes that the two-child limit has an objective and reasonable justification, notwithstanding its greater impact on women.
“The measure pursues a legitimate aim – to protect the economic wellbeing of the country by achieving savings in public expenditure and thus contributing to reducing the fiscal deficit.
“It was inevitable that if that aim was to be achieved, there would be a disproportionate impact on women – since women are disproportionately represented among parents responsible for bringing up children.
“Parliament decided that the disproportionate impact of the two-child limit on women was outweighed by the importance of achieving its aim.
“There is no basis on which the court could properly take a different view.”
Carla Clarke of the Child Poverty Action Group, which represented the mums and their children, said: “This is a hugely disappointing judgment which fails to give any meaningful recognition to the reality of the policy on the ground and its desperately unfair impact on children.
“We know the two-child limit increases child poverty, including child poverty in working households, and forces women to choose between an abortion and raising their families without enough to live on.
“It limits the life chances of children by reducing them from a person to a number.”
Some 243,000 households containing 911,000 children were hit by the two-child limit in its first three years to April 2020.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey had claimed the limit is “popular” and contested the case, arguing the policy does not breach human rights laws.
Her QC Sir James Eadie told an earlier hearing the policy aims to ensure welfare spending is sustainable and fair to the taxpayer, while protecting the most vulnerable.
It aims to ensure “that people in receipt of benefits should face the same choices as those who support themselves solely through work”, despite 37% of Universal Credit claimants having a job.
Mr Drabble told the court the limit fails to distinguish between people who have a third child while claiming, and those who only claim later when on hard times.
He said Covid-19 showed “there are all sorts of reasons for a benefit claim, and they are generally outside the control or expectation of the benefit claimants”.
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