The Court of Appeal has overturned an earlier decision of the High Court (click here for further commentary on that case) which concerned a fresh challenge to regulations that apply a cap on the amount of benefits which, inter alia, all non-working households could receive. The High Court had found a benefit cap on lone parents with children under the age of two was unlawful. In reaching this decision the Court of Appeal found that lone parents under the age of two were not substantially more disadvantaged than lone parents in general.
The particular claimants are four single mothers and their children under the age of two. It was alleged that the rules unlawfully discriminate against single parents who have children under two years of age, whether the parents are male or female, contrary to article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was also alleged that there is discrimination not only against the parents but also the children themselves. In this regard it had been argued that given the adverse impact of the cuts on the children of single parent households, the Secretary of State was under a duty to comply with article 3.1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which provides that "In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration."
In examining whether the benefits cap was justified the Court of Appeal looked at whether the amendments was ‘manifestly without reasonable foundation.’
The court found that the evidence did not support the proposition that the cohort of lone parents with children under the age of two in practice face substantially greater difficulties that lone parents with older children in obtaining work, nor indeed that it is virtually impossible for them to go to work because of their child care responsibilities. The court also found that the lack of exceptions given to lone parents by the Secretary of State was not without reason. The court noted it would not be unreasonable for there to be discretionary benefits for groups of individuals who would need additional assistance. The court did not accept that presenting the children as claimants in their own right adds anything of substance to the discrimination claims brought by their parents. In particular, their claims do not engage article 3 UNCRC any more than they did in SG (Click here for PILA commentary on that decision).
For full judgment from the Court of Appeal R (DA and Others) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.