Vulnerable families will face substantial hardship after the introduction of a £500 weekly cap on welfare benefits, according to newly filed court papers.
In the first of a series of test cases opposing the cap, lawyers for four welfare-dependent families said victims of domestic violence could even be forced to return to their abusers:
“Two of the families will receive nil for basic subsistence (food, clothes, heating) as their rent exceeds the £500 per week cap. They will immediately fall into arrears, face eviction and street homelessness. Two of the families have fled domestic violence in circumstances where they were financially reliant upon their abusive partners, and they now face a stark choice between descending further into poverty and risking losing their homes, or returning to their abusers in order to escape the imposition of the cap.”
One of the four unnamed families lives in Haringey, The Guardian reports, a pilot area for introduction of the cap. Two of the families involve alleged victims of domestic violence.
Affected families cannot appeal against the cap, which is, the government claims, intended to encourage the unemployed to return to work and ensure that they do not receive more in benefits than the average salary. The government estimates that around 56,000 households will be affected, losing an average of £93 per week.
The cap applies regardless of the number of children in a household.
The test case papers question the legality of the cuts.
“The families who bring this claim are indicative of … concerns regarding the legality of the policy, including its discriminatory effect, given its disproportionately adverse impact upon women (particularly single mothers), children, the disabled, and certain racial and religious groups.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman insisted that the benefits cap ensured “fair limits” in the welfare system: “We are confident that the benefit cap measures are lawful and do not discriminate against any groups.”