**Lone parents lose benefits cap challenges at supreme court.
Justices reject appeals despite Lord Wilson saying effect of cap on lone parents is " Often harsh. "**
**_Lone parents and their children have lost challenges against the government’s benefit cap at the UK’s highest court.
Supreme court justices, sitting in London on Wednesday, rejected the appeals in cases brought against the work and pensions secretary over the lawfulness of the measure by a majority of five to two.
Campaigners say the “discriminatory” reduced cap targets the wrong people and is not achieving its stated aims. A panel of judges were asked at a hearing last year to rule on whether the revised cap breached human rights laws.
Lord Wilson, announcing the decision, described the legislation that introduced the revised cap as “tough”, and said the court had been faced with a difficult decision on the appeals.
The evidence had persuaded all seven justices that the cap had a major impact on lone parents with children under school age because it was “particularly difficult for them to go out to work”.
The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 provides that where families receive state benefits of a specified character of more than £20,000 a year, or £23,000 a year if living in London, the benefits should – subject to various exemptions – be capped at those levels.
One way of avoiding the cap is for the adults to go out to work: a lone parent must do so for 16 hours a week. But lawyers for lone parents said the cap had “drastically” reduced housing benefits, leaving many families unable to afford basic necessities to care for their children.
It was argued they should be exempted because of the difficulty in finding work compatible with childcare responsibilities.
Lord Wilson said the effect on the parents and particularly on their children was “often harsh”. But in concluding that the appeals “must fail”, the majority considered, said Lord Wilson, that “we cannot go so far as to say that this application of the cap is manifestly without foundation”.
Lady Hale, ruling in favour of the five women who brought the appeals, said that “this seems to me a clear case where the weight of the evidence shows that a fair balance has not been struck between the interests of the community and the interests of the children concerned and their parents”.
She declared that there was “unjustified discrimination” against lone parents of children under the age of five, and against children under five with lone parents.
She said: “It seems to me that it has been comprehensively demonstrated by the mass of evidence… that the revised benefit cap is not suitable to achieving any of its declared aims.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Today’s decision is deeply disappointing, and is a blow to the many lone parents who are struggling to keep a roof over their children’s heads due to the benefit cap. Some families we work with are left with 50p a week towards their rent.
“The court heard extensive evidence that the cap is not meeting the government’s intended aims and is, in fact, causing severe hardship and destitution for families.”_**