The government are set to appeal the high court's ruling—even though they knew from the start the policy would cause serious harm to poor childrenby Maya Goodfellow / June 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
How many children are the government willing to plunge into poverty to stick to their ideological beliefs? The answer, it seems, is a lot. Yesterday the High Court judge Justice Collins ruled that the government’s benefit cap, which puts a limit on the amount of state support a household can receive, was unlawful. “Real misery is being caused to no good purpose,” he told the court—with children and single parents bearing the brunt.
In our current welfare system, children suffer for their parents’ situation—which, in turn, is often thrust upon them by a system that has seen in-work poverty grow and wages stagnating. About 4 million children are classed as poor, and it’s thought that figure will rise. That means children going without meals, having to live in uninhabitable accommodation or being turfed out of their homes and onto the streets. As the judge pointed out, “the cap cannot but exacerbate this,” dragging more people and their children into poverty.
An impossible challenge
The Tories’ perverse justification was that the cap would incentivise people to work. This logic treats people who claim benefits as workshy layabouts who are a drain on society. It divides parents, and therefore families, into David Cameron’s “strivers” and “skivers.” Families become scapegoats: if public services are crumbling around you, the logic seems to go, blame the people (and their children) forced to use state support, not the government which is intentionally cutting funding.
But for some, “striving” is impossible. The government’s policy is particularly discriminatory against lone parents with young children. To avoid the cap you have to work a minimum of sixteen hours a week (or equivalent). When work barely pays, this is near impossible for single parents up and down the country: there’s no free childcare for children under two, and the costs of someone else looking after your child in the day are astronomical. And so parents have to use state support—and are pushed into poverty.
What’s worse, the impacts of the cap could last those children a lifetime: children from poorer backgrounds don’t do as well as their wealthier counterparts at all stages of education and they are more likely to have chronic health problems. A state that doesn’t support poorer…