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Government wins appeal against High Court benefit cap ruling

A judge ruled last year that lone parents with children under two were being unlawfully discriminated against.

The Government has won a challenge against a ruling that its controversial benefit cap unlawfully discriminates against lone parents with children under two.

Court of Appeal judges ruled in favour of the Work and Pensions Secretary on Thursday by a two-to-one majority.

The latest decision in the case follows a High Court action last year which concluded with a judge saying that “real misery is being caused to no good purpose”.

Mr Justice Collins ruled in favour of four lone parent families in their action over the benefit cap, which limits the income households receive in certain benefits.

He said the successful claim related to the “revised” benefit cap which “requires the parent in order to avoid the imposition of the cap to work at least 16 hours per week”.

But, at the Court of Appeal in October last year, lawyers for the Work and Pensions Secretary urged three judges to overturn his decision.

Clive Sheldon QC, for the Government, told Sir Brian Leveson, Lord Justice McCombe and Sir Patrick Elias that the judge had made “a number of serious errors”, adding: “But for those errors, the claim would have been dismissed.”

Mr Justice Collins was “wrong and erred in law in determining on the evidence before him that the benefit cap unlawfully discriminated” against the claimants who brought the action.

Mr Sheldon submitted there was “no discriminatory impact and, in any event, any such impact would be justified”.

Sir Brian announced the court’s decision that the Government’s appeal had been allowed – but also said that the families had been given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

During last year’s appeal hearing lawyers for the families had asked the appeal judges to dismiss the Government’s challenge.

They said that a reduced benefit cap, introduced in 2016, “drastically reduced housing benefits, leaving lone parent families across the country unable to afford basic life necessities to care for their children”.

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