May 2015 Supreme Court Rules on Benefit Cap & Human Rights


On the 18th March 2015 the Supreme Court narrowly dismissed an appeal challenging the legality of the benefit cap which limits the amount of welfare benefits any family with children can receive to £500 a week, regardless of family size.

All the judges agreed that the cap had a disproportionate impact on lone parents who are overwhelmingly women. The Court was asked as a result whether this amounted to discrimination under the Human Rights Act and whether the government were in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which requires the government to treat the best interests of children as a primary consideration in all decisions).

Two judges would have allowed the appeal while two held that the courts should not interfere lightly with the decisions of parliament on issues of socio-economic policy and that the government aims were legitimate.

This left the fifth and deciding judge who, after hearing final submissions, agreed that the Convention could not be relied upon in a case involving sex discrimination. As a result, the appeal was dismissed.

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