High court rejects claims that benefit forces young people into poverty

Claims that thousands of young people were being forced into
poverty by “arbitrary” social security rules were rejected at the
high court.

In what was regarded as a test case, lawyers argued that it was
a violation of young people’s human rights for 18 to 24-year-olds
to receive significantly less in job seeker’s allowance,
simply on the basis of their age.

Under current rules, job seekers aged 25 or over receive an
allowance of £52.20 per week compared with £41.25 per
week for 18 to 24-year-olds.

Mr Manjit Gill QC argued that the weekly £10.85 shortfall
represented a “huge loss” and was the difference between achieving
the subsistence level and slipping below the poverty line for his
client Joanne Reynolds, who lost her job in October 1999 when she
was 24.

But Mr Justice Wilson rejected arguments that the rule amounted
to unlawful discrimination or a violation of Reynolds’ right
to respect for home and private life.

He said the government’s justification for the age
demarcation was not “manifestly without reasonable foundation”.

Jason Coppel, counsel for the department for work and pensions,
told the court there were powerful reasons for maintaining lower
payments to benefit claimants under the age of 25, including the
fact that younger people generally earned less that their older

Coppel added: “The secretary of state takes the view that it is
undesirable, for broader policy reasons, to discourage young
benefit claimants from seeking to live independently.

“It is ultimately a matter for parliament and the elected
government of the day to determine where the balance of social
policy lies.”

Reynolds, a young mother from the West Midlands, was refused the
right to take her case to the court of appeal – although she
still retains the option of a direct application for an appeal







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