The high court has ordered an urgent judicial review into the benefit cap and its impact on disabled people and their carers, it has been announced today.
A claim by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to have the case dismissed was unsuccessful and the High Court ruled that the case should proceed to a full hearing, no later than October this year (2015).
The judgement comes soon after the Supreme Court ruled that the benefit cap breached children’s rights, meaning it could result in them not receiving “adequate food, clothing, warmth and housing, the basic necessities of life”.
The Government recently admitted that the benefit cap could have “unintended consequences” for victims of domestic violence and amended the legislation to exempt those in women’s refuges.
Lawyers acting on behalf of two families will argue that the benefit cap breaches the rights of disabled people and their carers. In both cases, an adult is providing full-time care for their elderly and disabled grandparents and are only able to provide this care with support from state benefits.
Disabled people claiming Disability Living Allowance, and its replacement Personal Independence Payment, are exempt from the benefit cap. However, this does not extend to their carers in receipt of Carers Allowance. Any home carer claiming Carers Allowance can be affected by the cap.
The High Court order comes as the Government signalled their intent to lower the cap from £26,000 a year to £23,000 in the Queen’s Speech. Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham has said he may support the Conservative’s proposal of lowering the cap.
One of the claimants, Ashley Hurley, was brought up by his grandmother and says he is committed to providing her with the care she needs.
Mr Hurley said: “I had understood that the benefit cap was meant to encourage people to work and to address the problem of children growing up in workless families.
“I do not understand why it should apply to me as I do work, looking after my grandmother. If I did not care for my grandmother, then I suppose that we would have to ask the Council to pay for care for her.
“It would certainly cost the State more to pay someone to provide the care that I provide, and my grandmother would be very distressed about having care provided by strangers.
“Indeed, I expect that both her mental and physical health would rapidly deteriorate if this happened. I do not feel that I would be able to allow this to happen, and I do not understand why the government would think it was better for the State to care for my grandmother instead of her own family.”
The solicitor for the families, Rebekah Carrier, said: “My clients have been hit by the benefit cap because they are disabled or they provide essential care to their disabled relatives. They are not skivers – they are strivers. They provide full time care and save the State money.
“The Government seeks to justify the cap by the financial savings achieved but the long term consequences of this arbitrary benefit cap are likely to have not only devastating consequences for individual disabled people and those who care for them, but serious financial costs.
“If Ashley Hurley is forced into stopping her work as a carer, the State will have to pick up the tab and arrange alternative care. This is not a fair or sensible policy.
“The Supreme Court has already ruled that the benefit cap breaches international protections for the rights of children. Now the High Court has allowed this claim to proceed, considering whether it also breaches the rights of disabled people and their carers.
“The Government must halt this policy which simply hits vulnerable people.”
Last edited at 03:00 on 30th May 2015 to correct a grammatical error.