The total Benefit Cap is trapping women and children in violent relationships. The legal challenge brought by two single mothers and their children fleeing domestic violence will be heard on 29 and 30 April at the Supreme Court. Solicitor Rebekah Carrier describes the Cap as ‘catastrophic, cruel and arbitrary’.
Last year, Women Against Rape (WAR) launched a petition on behalf of women and children escaping violent relationships, and is campaigning with others to “Scrap the Benefit Cap!” In Parliament, the Early Day Motion sponsored by John McDonnell MP calls on the government to lift the cap to protect current and potential victims of domestic violence. The government has been forced to respond to the many objections and since 10 April, some women in refuges and hostels are protected, but the majority – like the mothers and children in the legal challenge – are not.
Join WAR’s protest outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday 29 April, 9.30 am, Parliament Square, corner of Victoria Street, London SW1P 3BD. Disabled People Against Cuts, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Taxpayers Against Poverty and WinVisible (women with visible and Invisible disabilities) are also taking part. Facebook event
Sign our petition online here to scrap the cap NOW, get your organisation to endorse it, like it to your friends on Facebook and Twitter – we need as many signatures as possible. The petition is endorsed by the Black Women’s Rape Action Project, and others.
Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 980
One third of women have suffered domestic violence. Every week two women are killed by partners or ex-partners, in England and Wales.
The Benefit Cap limits a family’s total benefit to £500 per week, including rent and Child Benefit. Extortionate rents leave mothers and children with little or no income to live on.
For more information about the campaign contact WAR
Tel: 020 7482 2496 firstname.lastname@example.org
About the legal challenge: Rebekah Carrier, Hopkin Murray Beskine.
Tel: 020 7272 1234
PRESS RELEASE from Hopkin Murray Beskine solicitors, 11 April 2014
Women’s Refuges now exempt from benefit cap, following legal action and campaign by women’s rights groups
This week new Regulations have come into force which exempt women’s refuges from the benefit cap. The change in the law comes shortly before two women who are domestic violence survivors, and their children, are due to have their case heard by the Supreme Court. It follows a campaign by a number of specialist charities and organisations, including Women’s Aid who have provided evidence in support of the women’s legal challenge.
The Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Supported Accommodation) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 came into force on 10 April 2014.
Until this change in the law, most women’s refuges were not exempt from the benefit cap. Some women’s refuges were already exempt from the benefit cap, but only if the landlord and the organisation providing support were the same. Women’s Aid’s evidence before the courts has shown that most refuges did not meet this requirement, because the landlord was different to the organisation providing support. Women receiving housing benefit in most refuges were therefore liable to the benefit cap if their overall benefits exceeded the limit. This caused serious problems for domestic violence victims, given the high cost of refuge accommodation. This is because rents for supported accommodation, including refuges, are generally higher than rents for non-supported accommodation.
Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, acknowledged the problem over a year ago. He wrote to Women’s Aid on 4th April 2013, recognising “the problem... that much of the existing provision does not meet the ‘precise’ definition of exempt accommodation.” He stated that the DWP would bring forward proposals to change this “at the earliest opportunity.”
Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine represents the women and their children in the Supreme Court case. She said:
“I welcome the Secretary of State for Work and Pension’s belated decision to exempt women’s refuges from the benefit cap. However this mistake should never have happened in the first place, and it should not have taken over a year and a legal challenge reaching the Supreme Court to sort this out. Lord Freud recognised the problem on 4th April 2013. Why was the law not changed until 10th April 2014?
The Secretary of State has yet to address other discriminatory aspects of the benefit cap policy, including other measures which adversely affect domestic violence victims and lone mothers. We are delighted that the Supreme Court is hearing my clients’ appeal on these important issues so speedily.”
The Supreme Court appeal is being heard on 29 and 30 April 2014. It is being brought by two single mothers who fled domestic violence, and their young children. They challenge the Regulations which implement the benefit cap, on the basis that they discriminate against domestic violence victims and lone parents (both groups which consist overwhelmingly of women). The children also argue that the cap is unlawful because of the risks of child poverty, destitution and homelessness, and that the Secretary of State has failed to ensure that the best interests of children are protected.
Notes for Editors:
1. The Supreme Court case is known as SG and others v the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions UKSC 2014/0079. The Court of Appeal found that the benefit cap does discriminate against women, but that discrimination has been ‘justified’ by the Secretary of State. The Appellants challenge that finding.
2. Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was granted on 2 April 2014.
3. The Appellants are being represented by Rebekah Carrier, solicitor, Hopkin Murray Beskine, and Ian Wise QC, Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Sam Jacobs of Doughty Street Chambers.
4. Any queries should be made to Rebekah Carrier at email@example.com