Child Poverty Action Group launches legal challenge to welfare reforms

The government is to face a legal challenge to controversial welfare reforms after the Child Poverty Action Group announced it has issued proceedings for judicial review.

The charity argued that two changes to housing benefit, due to come into force next month, will make large areas off limits to the poor.

It said the restriction of maximum household size to four bedrooms and caps on the amount of housing benefit a household can receive will have a dramatic effect in London in particular and could mean upwards of 20,000 children having to move.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “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.

“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.

“Children will be forced to move away from schools, friends, neighbourhoods and family. For some this may include moving away from another parent, most often their dad.”

News of the legal proceedings comes as a report by Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing claimed plans to change the way housing benefit is calculated will price low-income households out of a third of local authorities in England.

Under changes to housing benefit outlined in last month’s Welfare Reform Bill, local housing allowance increases for private tenants will be linked to the consumer price index of inflation rather than the cost of local rents.

The report shows that by 2023, the change will result in 34 per cent of local authorities outside of London being unaffordable for people claiming local housing allowance. Analysis in the study reveals a pattern between these areas and those regions with the biggest proportion of claimants in work and the highest rates of employment.

Regions forecasted in the report to remain affordable in 2023 – the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber – are those with the above average rates of economic inactivity and unemployment.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “As this takes effect, many people will see a big drop in their housing support, leaving them with a stark choice between rent arrears, eviction and possible homelessness, living in overcrowded homes or moving across the country to an area where they can afford to live but where there are fewer jobs available.

Meanwhile, a report by charity Family Action claims mothers will be discouraged from returning to work under the government’s welfare reforms as some will have to pay far more towards childcare.