The government are fighting tooth and nail to push single parents into poverty

After losing a High Court ruling in June, the government are now going to the very top – the Supreme Court – to defend a vindictive policy.

Pic: From Channel 4‘s coverage of the benefit cap findings on Thursday. 

It’s hard to think of anything more callous, but the government are going to the highest court in the land to defend a policy that attacks single mothers.

The true impact of the government’s benefit cap was laid bare yesterday: government statistics revealed that 68,079 households are being hit by the government’s benefit cap – three times higher than the same time last year.

71% of those hit – the vast majority – are single parents. In that group, 37,000 had children under five years old, 55% of the total number capped, according to analysis by Inside Housing.

16,960 are lone parent families with a child aged under two, while half of those affected lose more than £50 a week as a result of the cap, according to Shelter. For low income families, that’s a huge loss.

While the Daily Mail rant that the policy is stopping people ‘raking in more in handouts,’ the reality is much darker. There are two groups hit hardest by this move: the very youngest, and some of the poorest women in our society.

According to figures from single parent charity Gingerbread and seen by Left Foot Forward:

  • To date, 92,345 single parents have been hit by the benefit cap, of which 88,679 (96%) – are women
  • Of those hit by the cap after it was further reduced by the government in November 2016, 45,369 single parents – of which 43,617 (96%) were women.

Yet after losing a High Court ruling in June, the government are now going to the very top – the Supreme Court – to defend this clearly discriminatory policy.

This was a case brought by four lone parent families who said the cap would have a disproportionate impact on them. They, and the court, were right – and they’ve been vindicated by these new figures.

The court heard from mothers who had to cut back on food for themselves to feed their children, from rape victims who have fled to new accommodation. Take one:

“[Jane (anonymised)] has four children, aged 17, 14, 13, 7 and 14 months…The youngest child was conceived following a rape by her husband: she has indeed been the victim of an abusive relationship over the years. She has since February 2017 been living in suitable accommodation, but the cap has resulted in a shortfall of £151.76 per week.

“She was able to obtain DHPs [Discretionary Housing Payments] but only for short terms and with no promise that they would continue. On having been granted a DHP on 20 April 2017, the council wrote a letter dated the same day saying it had been cancelled. The way she has been treated has distressed her. She wishes to work when she can.”

Mr Justice Collins put it better than anyone, speaking in the High Court in May:

“The evidence shows that the cap is capable of real damage to individuals such as the claimants. They are not workshy but find it, because of the care difficulties, impossible to comply with the work requirement.

“Most lone parents with children under two are not the sort of households the cap was intended to cover and, since they will depend on DHP, they will remain benefit households.

“Real misery is being caused to no good purpose.”

Instead of dealing with the root causes of the benefits bill – a total failure of the government to build social housing and clamp down on insecure work – this is a policy is pushing people into homelessness and despair.

In the wake of yesterday’s findings, the government should drop their vindictive appeal immediately. It’s not too late.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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