Judicial review finds benefit cap discriminates against single parents with babies and toddlers

Posted 22 June 2017

Gingerbread welcomes high court ruling that recognises benefit cap harms most vulnerable single parents

Response to welcome ruling that benefit cap discriminates against most vulnerable single parents; Gingerbread provided evidence for high court case

In a striking victory for the most vulnerable single parents, Mr Justice Collins today ruled that the government’s benefit cap policy discriminates against single parents with children under two and is therefore unlawful.

The policy, which limits the amount of financial support that families out of work can receive from the government, has been linked with a growing risk of poverty in the UK. [1]

Gingerbread provided a witness statement and written evidence to the High Court as part of the successful challenge, showing that the policy unfairly affects single parents with babies and toddlers who find it the most difficult to escape the benefit cap.

As of Feb 2017, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of those affected by the cap were single parent households, and of these over a third (35 per cent) had children under two.[2]This amounts to around 26,000 single parents with babies or toddlers being affected by the cap to date.

While two-thirds of coupled households where the youngest child was under two have been able to move off the cap to date, only a third (36 per cent) of equivalent single parent households were able to do so. [3]

Gingerbread’s evidence shows that the high cost of childcare as well as the lack of flexible work makes it difficult – and often prohibitive – for single parents to move into work. For example, there is a shortage of part-time work, and when vacancies arise they are often at unsuitable times or for fewer than the 16 hours required to escape the cap.

The government’s wider welfare rules recognise the caring responsibilities of parents with very young children, who are not expected to look for work. However, these wider rules are contradicted by the benefit cap. [4]

Mr Justice Collins agreed, noting: “Real misery is being caused to no good purpose.”

Dalia Ben-Galim, Director of Policy at Gingerbread, stated:

“This is a fantastic result that offers real hope for some of the most vulnerable families in the UK. When it comes to single parents, the benefit cap rules risked pushing them into ever deeper poverty. We hope the government will now commit to making sure this policy aligns with wider welfare rules for families with such young children.”


Examples of calls to Gingerbread’s helpline:

A single parent with three children who lives outside London and her youngest child is two.  Under the lowered benefit cap she loses £50 a week. She is worried she will lose the family home. She has been trying to find a job but it has been hard to find work that fits in with her caring responsibilities.

A single parent who has a two year old son in London and recently had to give up work due to a lack of available childcare. She faces a loss of £20 a week from her housing benefit.

A single parent with three children, the youngest aged two, and lives outside London.  She faces a shortfall of £50 a week. She has been trying to find work that fits with her caring responsibilities but has not been successful. She is also concerned about how she will pay upfront childcare costs if she does find work.

Gingerbread Chief Executive, Rosie Ferguson, responding to the high court ruling.