THE BLOG

Plea To The Court Of Appeal To Stop The 'Real Misery' Of The Benefit Cap For Single Parents Of Babies And Toddlers

24/10/2017 14:27 BST | Updated 24/10/2017 14:29 BST

In June, Mr Justice Collins ruled in the High Court that the benefit cap discriminates against single parents with a child under two - saying "real misery is being caused to no good purpose". But despite these strong words and the weight of evidence about the benefit cap's negative impact on this group, the Government isn't listening. Today their appeal to keep the policy in place will be heard in the Appeal Court.

As a policy officer at Gingerbread, the charity that supports single parent families, I hear regularly of parents who are struggling as a result of the benefit cap - a financial limit on the amount of money that a household can receive in benefits when they are working fewer than 16 hours.

Single parents make up nearly two-thirds of all households hit by the cap. Among them are parents with very young children who struggle to find flexible work or affordable childcare. To date 28,630 single parent families with a child under two have faced cuts to their income because of it.

And despite the ruling back in June, the stories of single parents experiencing hardship keep on coming:

There's Carla* who has a young baby and lives in London. She has been trying to find work but the only job she has been offered would not provide enough hours to escape the cap - it is less than 16 hours' work a week.

There's Helen who has a three year old daughter and is pregnant. When her baby is born next month she will face a shortfall in her rent of £30 a week due to the benefit cap. We don't know how she'll keep up her rent payments.

And Maria, a victim of domestic violence, is caring for three children alone - the youngest is a baby. She struggled hard to find a job and childcare so she could escape the benefit cap. But with a wait before her first pay cheque, she did not have the money to pay the childminder for the first two weeks. She has been told by the job centre that there is no help available to her.

These are just a few of the single parents with babies and toddlers who've called our helpline since the court judgment in June. They want to care for their young children, yet face no way out of this trap - with little choice but to take the financial loss.

In other welfare rules, the Government rightly recognises the challenges faced by single parents - when they have kids under two they are not required to find work. So why continue to put a cap in place that financially punishes them for this? The Governments own figures show that, despite the stick that this policy is supposed to provide, the majority of this group of single parents are not securing work or enough hours to escape the cap. Instead they have a shortfall in rent, leaving them without the basics to live and with the threat of losing their family home.

At best this is a short-sighted inconsistency in policy, at worst an attempt to save money by targeting a vulnerable group with limited support. Either way, we urge the Appeal Court to recognise the impact this is having on families with babies. The "misery to no good purpose" really should be put to an end.

For information on the benefit cap visit Gingerbread's website in particular https://gingerbread.org.uk/content/952/Benefit-Cap and https://gingerbread.org.uk/content/960/The-benefit-cap

For professional advice, call Gingerbread's single parent helpline

Gingerbread's policy team tweets at @GingerbreadPA

*Callers to our helpline remain anonymous. Names are illustrative.