Father wins test case for child-care benefits

    Campaigners Fathers Direct has welcomed a landmark case that saw
    an unemployed father win his seven-year fight to become eligible
    for child-care related benefits, writes Shirley
    Kumar.

    Judges at an Appeal Court in December ruled in favour of Eugen
    Hockenjos who cared for his two daughters on an equal basis to his
    ex-wife. The move is likely could trigger a major re-write of the
    benefit rules.

    Hockenjos of Islington, North London, can now claim thousands of
    pounds in back-payments, after the government consistently refused
    vital supplements to his Jobseeker’s Allowance worth about
    £60-a-month.

    Lord Justice Scott Baker said Hockenjos was clearly a
    “substantial minority carer” for his children but the
    benefits system by its use of Child Benefit as a
    “passport” to other entitlements created an “all
    or nothing” situation, where the reality of shared care
    arrangements was not recognised.

    Fathers Direct co-founder, Jack O’Sullivan welcomed the
    decision. He said the ruling could open the door to hundreds of
    other fathers “struggling financially to look after their
    children when they come to stay”.

    “The system simply treats the non-resident father as a
    single person and it should recognise that when parents separate,
    both become lone parents.”

    The charity is holding a forum to discuss the benefit system at
    the Working with Fathers Conference sponsored by Community Care to
    be held on April 5 at the Institute of Education in London.

    The government was refused permission to appeal further to the
    House of Lords, but may still petition the Law Lords for an appeal
    hearing.

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