More babies and toddlers unlawfully affected by benefit cap than ever before

Posted 3 August 2017

Analysis of new benefit cap figures shows that most vulnerable single parents are still being affected

The number of babies and toddlers affected by the government’s benefit cap policy continues to rise – despite a high court ruling the policy unlawful.

In June, Mr Justice Collins ruled that the benefit cap discriminates against single parents with children under two. Collins argued that the application of the policy was “causing real misery for no good purpose.” [1]

Today’s data shows that nearly 3,000 more single parent families with a child under two have been capped in the last three months alone. This means that, to date, 28,630 single parent families with under-twos have been hit by the cap. Single parents make up nearly two-thirds of the total households affected. [2]

While the government’s justification for the policy is that it encourages those without work to seek employment, the continuing rise in the numbers of families affected suggests that for many this is simply not an option. This is in line with the evidence that Gingerbread submitted to the high court case – that the high cost of childcare alongside a lack of flexible work makes it exceptionally difficult for single parents to move into work.

In particular, single parents with the youngest children struggle the most to juggle finding suitable employment with affordable childcare. While 65 per cent of coupled households where the youngest child was under two have been able to move off the cap to date, only 41 per cent of equivalent single parent households were able to do so. [3]

Instead, the benefit cap places these families at risk of poverty. [4] Already, nearly half (47 per cent) of children in single parent families are living in poverty [5] – a figure that is forecast to sharply rise. [6]

Rather than acknowledge the evidence and high court ruling, the government has instead decided to appeal the ruling – meaning that vulnerable single parent families will continue to be affected by the cap.

Dalia Ben-Galim, director of policy at Gingerbread, comments:

“The high court ruling on the benefit cap was unambiguous: single parent families with babies and children should be exempt from this policy. The figures today show that even greater numbers of the most vulnerable families are being affected by the cap for no good reason. It is not too late for the government to withdraw its appeal. The current policy is driving families into poverty rather than into work.”

Rebekah Carrier, solicitor at Hopkin Murray Beskine responsible for the court case against the government, comments:

“My clients are all single parents in very difficult circumstances, so we were very relieved by the high court judgement. My clients hoped it would enable them to care for their very young children while planning a future, without losing the money needed for essentials like food and rent. The rulingrecognised that the cap is a cruel and blunt instrument with devastating impacts for families like these.

“It’s been very hard for me, therefore, to have to explain to them that despite the court stating they should be exempt, the government is ignoring that and unlawfully continuing to cap them instead. We have now successfully applied for expedition of the government’s appeal, and it is due to be heard at the end of October. My clients and thousands of other families will wait anxiously for the outcome.”