Britain’s highest court has rejected a challenge over the government’s “two-child limit” for welfare payments.
The rule, which went into effect in April 2017, limits child tax deductions and universal credit to the first two children in a family with a few exceptions.
During a hearing last October, a panel of seven Supreme Court justices was asked to decide whether the border was compatible with human rights laws – including the right to respect for privacy and family life, to start a family and freedom from discrimination – as the policy disproportionately affects women.
The challenge was brought by two single mothers and their children – who the court ordered can not be identified – supported by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), but was brought on behalf of all those affected by the policy.
The presiding judge, Lord Reed, dismissed the case on Friday, dismissing the case by upholding previous rulings of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
The judges concluded that although the policy had a greater impact on women – who make up 90% of single-parent families – there was an “objective and reasonable justification” for this effect, namely to “protect the country’s economic well-being”.
They also concluded that any impact of the policy on children in families with more than one sibling is “justifiable”.
The families who brought the challenge have both been affected by the border as they have children born after the new rule came into force under the Welfare Reform and Work Act of 6 April 2017.
Carla Clarke, head of strategic litigation at CPAG, said: “This is a hugely disappointing verdict that does not provide any meaningful recognition of the reality of the policy on the ground and its desperately unfair impact on children.
“We know that the limit for two children increases poverty among children, including child poverty in working households, and forces women to choose between an abortion and raising their families without enough to live on.
“It limits children’s life chances by reducing them from one person to a number.
“It is well established that the ultimate protection against discrimination, especially in disputes, lies with our courts. There is simply no evidence in this judgment.
“We continue to believe that the policy is illegal and, together with our clients, we are considering taking the matter to the European Court of Human Rights so that no child is left out of the social security network solely because of their birth order.”