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Children's charity launches judicial review against housing benefit cuts

7 March 2011

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has launched a judicial review against cuts in housing benefits.

The two cuts involved are the cap on the size of houses to four bedrooms and the cap on weekly payments to £250 a week for a one-bedroom flat or £400 a week for a four-bedroom house.

The measures, announced in last summer’s emergency budget, are due to be implemented on 1 April this year.

Sarah Clarke, solicitor at CPAG, said the changes would apply to new housing benefit claimants, before being extended to all claimants in January 2012.

She said that under section 130 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, it is clear that the housing benefit scheme is intended to be a national scheme.

As a result she said the caps, which would force people to leave central London, were “ultra vires”.

Clarke said the government had not properly considered the impact of the cuts on ethnic minorities and women, as required by its general equality duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

She said Lord Freud, the minister for welfare reform, accepted that the changes might have a disproportionate effect on minority groups, but said they did not have the data to show this.

“Anyone who thinks they are going to be affected by the changes in April should get advice now,” Clarke said.

She added that CPAG was asking the High Court to rule on the issue of permission for the judicial review by the end of this month, but there would not be a full hearing before June.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said the cuts would redesign the housing benefit scheme “as an engine of social segregation”.

She went on: “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.”

Garnham said London would be worst affected, with the “social cleansing” of parts of the city as families were forced out of their homes and into less suitable often poor-quality housing.

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