The Supreme Court will next week hold an expedited hearing of a challenge to the Government’s introduction of the controversial ‘benefit cap’.
The case of R on the application of SG and others (previously JS and others) (Appellants) v The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Respondents) will be heard over two days on 29-30 April by a panel comprising Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath and Lord Hughes.
The central issue is whether the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit) Regulations 2012 are unlawful because they unjustifiably discriminate against lone parents and victims of domestic violence, who are predominantly women, and fail to have regard to the best interests of the child.
The claimants are lone mothers, who have suffered domestic violence, and their pre-school age children. They say that the £26,000 benefits cap has substantially reduced their family’s weekly income and put them at risk of losing their homes.
Law firm Hopkin Murray Beskine is acting for the claimants and has instructed Ian Wise QC, Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Sam Jacobs of Doughty Street Chambers.
The Child Poverty Action Group and Shelter are also intervening in the case.
In February the Court of Appeal rejected appeals against the High Court’s dismissal of the claimants’ case for judicial review.
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, said the court recognised that the cap was a controversial statutory measure which would cause hardship to some (“possibly many”) people who were on benefit.
But he said the legislation was “carefully calibrated to produce a scheme which was judged by both of them [Parliament and the Government] to strike a fair balance between all members of society, in particular between those who are in work and those who are not”.
Lord Dyson said the cap reflected the political judgment of the Government and it had been endorsed by Parliament after considerable debate. It was not the role of the court to say whether it agreed with this judgment or not, he added.
The Master of the Rolls said that the court’s function was to rule on whether the cap was lawful. On the main issue of whether the cap unlawfully discriminated against women and families, the question was whether the cap was manifestly without foundation.
The Court of Appeal was satisfied that the cap “plainly does have a reasonable foundation”, he added.
See also: The cap fits? Dean Underwood’s analysis of the Court of Appeal ruling.