The Child Poverty Action Group is mounting a legal challenge on housing benefit changes which come into force on 1 April.
The charity is seeking a judicial review of the government’s new cap on how much benefit a household can receive and the decision to reduce maximum household size to four bedrooms from five in order to be eligible for it.
As Community Care has previously reported, the planned cuts led to widespread concern that thousands of families will be forced to leave their homes and their local areas – particularly in densely populated urban areas. This could put more pressure on children’s services in the outskirts of cities or in the cheaper areas.
“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,” said Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group.
“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.
“We have served legal proceedings on the government to protect Britain from becoming a country where neighbourhoods that have been open to all families to live in for generations become more like a private members’ club.”
Garnham said the cuts would see “the social cleansing of parts of London with families being forced out of their homes and into less suitable, often poor quality and cramped housing”.
She added: “David Cameron made a clear promise before the election to make child poverty history. We didn’t expect this to mean families being told to pack up and move out of the neighbourhood their parents and grandparents lived in because of the housing market bubble the bankers created and the bankers’ bail-out that hit the ordinary taxpayer.”
The cuts are part of the government’s changes to the benefits system, announced in July’s emergency budget and the comprehensive spending review in October.
Although they will be implemented on 1 April, the legal judgement is likely to be delivered in June. If it goes against the government, ministers may be forced to suspend or reverse the changes and compensate claimants for any housing benefit lost.
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