In 2013 the Government introduced a benefits cap which limits the amount an out-of-work family can receive to £500 per week. This is a blanket policy and does not take into account individual circumstances.
An appeal against the cap was brought by two mothers who, having suffered domestic violence, fled and as a result of the cap are now facing homelessness.
3 out of 5 judges in the Court held that the cap does not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires the best interests of children to be the most important factor. They said that the cap deprived children of “the basic necessities of life”.
However, the UN Convention is not incorporated into UK law, and so the Government is under no obligation to put the needs of children above all else.
The cap does not, on the other hand, breach Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This article prohibits discrimination. Therefore the judges dismissed the appeal.
Although this means that the cap is still in force, the Government has been placed under pressure to reconsider its application, particularly following the comments of the senior judges who stated that the cap disproportionately affects women and children, while the money it saves is “marginal at best”.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Children Poverty Action Group, said “We hope the Government will listen to the Court and comply with international law on the protection of children”.