Court rules on young people’s benefits

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

In what was seen as a test case, lawyers
argued that it was a violation of the human rights of 18 to
24-year-olds for them to receive £10.85 less in jobseeker’s
allowance than people aged 25 or over.

Manjit Gill QC argued that the weekly
£10.85 shortfall was the difference between subsistence level
and slipping below the poverty line for his client Joanne Reynolds,
who lost her job in October 1999 aged 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”.

Counsel for the Department for Work and
Pensions Jason Coppel told the court there were good reasons for
maintaining lower payments to benefit claimants under the age of
25, including the fact that young people tend to earn less.

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

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