Mother of six fails in challenge to benefit cap
An Orthodox single mother of six children lost a legal challenge this week against the government’s clampdown on welfare benefits.
The High Court rejected a claim that the £26,000 a year maximum placed on benefit payments introduced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith this year was unduly unfair.
The Orthodox mother, who lives in Stamford Hill, north-east London, was one of three women who brought a test case, backed by housing charity Shelter and the Child Poverty Action Group.
Described only as “SG”, the woman lives with three of her six children, two girls and a three-year-old boy.
Her eldest child, 17, is in foster care in Hackney, in east London, while she has also applied to the courts in Belgium for the return of a 12-year-old son, who lives there with her estranged husband.
She left her husband two years ago after an “unhappy history”, which included allegations of physical and child abuse made against the father by the child in foster care, according to the judgment issued this week.
Her three-year-old shares a room with her in her two-bedroom privately rented flat, while the two girls sleep in the other bedroom.
Before the cap, her benefits amounted to £585.40 a week — more than the £500 a week maximum now applicable under the cap.
“If any of her older children return, she would be entitled to an increase in child benefit and child tax credit but would not in fact receive any additional money,” Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Bean wrote.
“She would thus have to feed and clothe an extra child or two children without additional funds.”
It was important, the judges noted, for her to live in Stamford Hill, where her children went to Jewish school and she had a network of family and friends.
Lawyers for the women argued that the cap would adversely hit large families and therefore certain religious and ethnic minorities.
But the judges concluded that, although some might regard the exceptions to the cap as too narrow, the new welfare policy was not “so manifestly unfair or disproportionate as to justify an interference by the courts”.