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kevin
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The Child Poverty Action Group is mounting a legal challenge on housing benefit changes which come into force on 1 April.

The charity is seeking a judicial review of the government's new cap on how much benefit a household can receive and the decision to reduce maximum household size to four bedrooms from five in order to be eligible for it.

As Community Care has previously reported<, the planned cuts led to widespread concern that thousands of families will be forced to leave their homes and their local areas - particularly in densely populated urban areas. This could put more pressure on children's services in the outskirts of cities or in the cheaper areas.

"Housing benefit will no longer be the national scheme it is legally meant to be once cuts redesign it as an engine of social segregation," said Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group.

"It is not right that families living in certain areas, especially larger families, are punished and pushed aside while parts of Britain become enclaves for the privileged.

"We have served legal proceedings on the government to protect Britain from becoming a country where neighbourhoods that have been open to all families to live in for generations become more like a private members' club."

Garnham said the cuts would see "the social cleansing of parts of London with families being forced out of their homes and into less suitable, often poor quality and cramped housing".

She added: "David Cameron made a clear promise before the election to make child poverty history. We didn't expect this to mean families being told to pack up and move out of the neighbourhood their parents and grandparents lived in because of the housing market bubble the bankers created and the bankers' bail-out that hit the ordinary taxpayer."

The cuts are part of the government's changes to the benefits system, announced in July's emergency budget and the comprehensive spending review in October.

Although they will be implemented on 1 April, the legal judgement is likely to be delivered in June. If it goes against the government, ministers may be forced to suspend or reverse the changes and compensate claimants for any housing benefit lost.

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2011/03/07/116407/charity-mounts-legal-challenge-over-housing-benefit-cuts.htm

also refer http://www.disabilityalliance.org/media.htm

http://www.cpag.org.uk/press/2011/070311.htm

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John
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From Inside Housing click here to read the comments on there website.<

DWP defends benefit reforms in court<

The Department for Work and Pensions has vigorously defended its housing benefit reforms at the High Court.

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The charity Child Poverty Action Group believes the national cap on local housing allowance payments and a restriction preventing payments exceeding the cost of renting a four bedroom home are illegal. It has asked Justice Supperstone to quash the measures, which came into effect following secondary legislation in April.

CPAG yesterday< claimed in court that the secretary of state for Work and Pensions had acted outside the powers of the Housing Act 1996 by setting caps that do not take into account local availability of accommodation.

It says the policy will increase homelessness in high rental areas, contrary to the aim of the scheme.

But the DWP today (Friday) argued that there is no requirement in the legislation that housing benefit should enable claimants to live in any area they choose, regardless of the implications for public policy and public finances.

James Eadie, representing the DWP, said: ‘It is not accepted that the statutory purpose of the scheme is to prevent homelessness.

‘The purpose of the scheme is to support those less well off but to do so in a way that does not impose an undue burden on the taxpayer, who funds the scheme.’

Mr Eadie said it is impossible that Parliament intended that the control of public expenditure on housing benefit should be moved from the ‘democratically accountable’ secretary of state to local rent officers.

CPAG also alleged that the DWP had failed to comply with general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976< and Sexual Discrimination Act 1975<. These impose a general duty to ‘have due regard to the need’ to eliminate discrimination.

CPAG says the DWP failed to carry out enough research to establish the impact on black and minority ethnic families of the four bedroom limit.

Mr Eadie said the DWP carried out two different equality impact assessments and noted BME families are likely to be disproportionately affected by the four bedroom limit. He said the limitations of available data meant it could not provide the specific impact.

Mr Eadie said: ‘The unavailability of data did not mean the secretary of state failed to have due regard to equality issues.’

The DWP’s submission to the court said even if it had found the reforms would have a disproportionate effect on ethnic minority households it would still have proceeded with them.

It said: ‘The secretary of state would have proceeded to implement the proposed measures in light of the strong socio-economic imperatives.’

A ruling is expected to be published in the next few weeks.

anonymous (not verified)
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Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has failed in its High Court challenge to changes to housing benefit which were implemented on 1 April 2011. These changes placed

  • a restriction of maximum household size to four bedrooms
  • caps on the amount of housing benefit a household can receive

The grounds for appeal

CPAG's grounds for appeal were:

  1. The introduction of maximum weekly caps on the amount of local housing allowance ("LHA") on the basis that it is ultra vires as being outside the powers conferred on the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, the Defendant, under the Housing Act 1996 ("the Housing Act"), read together with the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 ("the SSCBA").
  2. The reduction of the maximum size in accommodation eligible for housing benefit from five bedrooms to four bedrooms on the basis that the Defendant failed properly to fulfil his general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 ("RRA") and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 ("SDA").

The decision

The case was heard as Child Poverty Action Group v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions.

In relation to ground 1, CPAG contended that the statutory purpose of the housing benefit scheme is to contribute to rental costs in such a way that claimants are not made homeless through inability to pay their rent. Mr Justice Slipperstone disagreed, stating that the purpose of the scheme was to assist claimants with rent, while also protecting the public purse and that there is nothing in primary legislation to prevent the DWP from introducing maximum caps in addition to the existing area-based calculation of housing benefit.

In relation to ground 2, Mr Justice Slipperstone stated that the Secretary of State had indicated an awareness of his equality duties and paid specific regard to them before reaching a decision by carrying out two Equality Impact Assessments (IEAs) in July and November 2010 respectively.This was considered adequate for the purposes of performing his statutory duty.
 
The introduction of maximum weekly caps on the amount of local housing allowance was therefore not ultra vires; and the Defendant did not fail to comply with his general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in relation to the reduction of the maximum category of dwelling for LHA determinations, from five to four bedrooms, or in relation to the introduction of maximum weekly caps on the amount of local housing allowance.

More information

http://www.disabilityalliance.org/cpaghb.htm<

John
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Court rules to allow discriminatory impacts of Housing Benefit cuts<

13.10.11

The High Court of Justice has today passed down judgment in favour of the Government in a Judicial Review brought by Child Poverty Action Group. The review concerned two specific cuts to housing benefit that came into force this April:

  • Restriction of maximum household size to four bedrooms
  • Caps on the amount of Housing Benefit a household can receive

Child Poverty Action Group’s case in support of disadvantaged families against the Government was:

  • The changes are contrary to the fundamental purpose of the housing benefit scheme, which was originally intended to be a national scheme to prevent homelessness
  • The Government has failed to have due regard to the general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 because ethnic minorities and lone parents will be disproportionately hit by the two cuts being challenged.

The Chief Executive of Child Poverty, Alison Garnham, said:

“We are greatly disappointed at today’s judgment. Minority ethnic and lone parent families are already at higher risks of child poverty and the cuts to housing benefit that we challenged will make this situation even worse, driving people out of their homes and disrupting children’s education.

“The bad news for poor families is piling up this week, following the stark warning from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that hundreds of thousands more children will fall into poverty because of the Government’s welfare reforms.

“We will now be studying the decision before deciding on our next steps. We will continue opposing the cuts and campaigning for fairness and justice for the families who are bearing the brunt of a financial crisis that they were not responsible for.”

Notes for editors

Summary of judgment:

CPAG challenged two changes to the housing benefit rules for tenants in the private rented sector that were made with effect from 1st April 2011;

  • An overall cap on housing benefit which mainly affects Central London
  • A reduction in the number of bedrooms that can be covered by housing benefit to 4

CPAG argued that the overall cap went beyond the powers given by parliament to the Secretary of State in setting up the housing benefit scheme. We argued that Parliament intended that the scheme should be national, and the government went too far in making rules that exclude a large area of central London from the housing benefit scheme for private tenants.

We also argued that the government had failed in its duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Although the Government recognised that the measures would probably have a disproportionate impact on woman and families from particular ethnic groups, it considered the changes justified nonetheless.

In a deeply disappointing judgment, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed CPAG’s claim. He agreed with the government that the purpose of the housing benefit scheme is not to prevent homelessness, but to help claimants with their rent whilst also protecting the public purse. He has also held that there is nothing in the statutory scheme to prevent the government from setting an overall cap in this way. By preparing an Equality Impact Assessment he held that the government had “due regard” to the need to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination but that they were entitled to make the changes despite their disproportionate impact.

Evidence was produced to show that around 9,000 London households will have to leave their homes as a result of the caps, and that about 4,600 will be unable to find anywhere else to live “locally”. This could mean upwards of 20,000 children having to move, 14,000 out of their local area, resulting in disruption to education, health and social services. The Social Security Advisory Committee advised the government not to proceed with the changes, arguing that the risks outweighed any financial savings.

We believe this case shows the government’s disregard for the likely impacts of its policies on families and children, and for the most disadvantaged groups in our society.

For further information please contact:
Tim Nichols
CPAG Press Officer
Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302 
tnichols@cpag.org.uk<

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