UK benefits cap deemed to be lawful

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that the £500-a-week cap is lawful however it is incompatible with UK obligations under the UN convention on rights of the child. /images/briefing/money.jpg

    The Supreme Court has found that the government's benefit cap risks leaving claimants unable to house, feed or clothe their family which is a clear breach of UK obligations on international children's rights. However it did not find the cap unlawful, reports the Guardian.

    It found the secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, had failed to "show how the cap was compatible with his obligation to treat the best interests of children as a primary consideration".

    By a three-two majority verdict the court rules that the benefit cap regulations were not unlawful and when reading the judgement Lord Reed said the aims of the cap were "legitimate".

    However three of the five judges concluded that the benefit cap was not compatible with article 3(1) of the UN convention on children's rights.

    In a dissenting judgment the deputy president of the supreme court, Lady Hale, said: "The prejudicial effect of the cap is obvious and stark. It breaks the link between benefit and need. 

    "Claimants affected by the cap will, by definition, not receive the sums of money which the state deems necessary for them adequately to house, feed, clothe and warm themselves and their children."

    The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said: "I am delighted that the country's highest court has agreed with this government and overwhelming public opinion that the benefit cap is right and fair. I am proud to say that it is one of the most significant reforms we've implemented over the past five years." 

    Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "As three of the judges have said: ‘It cannot be in the best interests of the children affected by the cap to deprive them of the means of having adequate food, clothing, warmth and housing'.  We hope the government will listen to the court and comply with international law on the protection of children."

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