The High Court has granted an urgent challenge to the reduced benefit cap and the hearing will go ahead in May.
The specific test cases all concern lone parents with children under the age of two, a cohort that the DWP says are not expected to work yet have to find work else they are benefit-capped and put at severe and imminent risk of eviction and homelessness.
“The Secretary of State (ie DWP) recognises that lone parents of very young children under two should not be expected to work ...” and a quick look at the total 20,096 benefit capped cases at November 2016 shows that 5,030 lone parents who are capped have a child of under two years of age – just over 25% of all cases.
I have raised this specific point many times before and as far back as March 2015 that the not expected to work cohort are between a rock and hard place in that they either work of face an almost inevitable arrears eviction and homelessness pathway. This is one of the systemic aspects of the policy and overtly and directly creates child homelessness.
I would take issue with the statement that “…free childcare for low income families starts only when ...” as (a) only a percentage of the child care cost is paid and not all of it, and (b) when the 16 hour work necessary to qualify for Working Tax Credit is in a zero hours contract or an on-call form of employment or is out of normal 9 – 5 working hours then is any such child care provision actually available at all? I strongly doubt that it is.
The same goes for the other major cohort of benefit capped households, those who are on ESA and in the work-related activity group (WRAG) that I have termed the unable to work. ESA used to be called Incapacity Benefit and the rationale for this cohort is they are expected to work (a) in up to two years time, and (b) if they get support both into employment and to sustain employment … yet that support simply does not exist.
This unable to work cohort accounts for 15% of benefit-capped households as Table 6 in the same official DWP figures referenced above reveals:
As we can see there are more incapacitated and unable to work benefit cap households than there are in receipt of JSA who are by definition able and ready to work and which all capped households need to do to escape the overall benefit cap.
I am glad that this case is going ahead as it very specifically is about those who are benefit-capped yet not expected to work. I do find it strange that those who are unable to work have no such challenge going ahead (at least to my knowledge) as being unable to work by definition must be more of a constraint than being not expected to work – and even that assumes that those in the ESA WRAG who have been found ‘fit for work’ by the highly discredited work capability assessments are actually fit for work within that two years and by which time they will have been evicted and made homeless.
Late last week I was contacted by a grandmother, a kinship carer, who because she looks after her grandchildren as the mother cannot – and one of around 170,000 such kinship families across the UK – she is hit by the benefit cap and even had her council landlord doorstep her, that is turn up on her doorstep demanding to know what plan she has for her benefit cap arrears.
How can the government now exempt carers and those who receive Carers Allowance from the benefit cap yet not exempt kinship carers who do exactly the same job of caring for their kin yet get no benefit for this at all? That has no rhyme or reason and in my mind is just as strong a legal case as those unable to work and not expected to work.
I restate that the reduction in the overall benefit cap has no political detractors as the same policy was in the last Labour Party general election manifesto and was not mentioned at all at the last Labour conference and no other political party has publicly come out and condemned this policy that systemically makes children homeless.
Hopefully this legal case will raise political awareness of just what this heinous overall benefit cap policy actually means in reality. The overall benefit cap is THE most offensive and outrageous social security policy of the lot and also the one most misunderstood and has the least awareness.
UPDATE 16:00 27 February 2017
One of my earliest posts in 2015 on those not expected to work said – correctly – that a mum giving birth at 9 am would need to go to work that same day else be hit by the very significant benefit cap deductions. Mum could be cut and have sutures from childbirth yet still HAS to go to work the day of giving birth even though the government admit she is not expected to work.
I am amazed that this very real aspect has not been picked up by feminists because this is precisely what the policy means and how it will impact.