Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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Paul T Horgan: Lefty media ignore sensible benefits court rulings

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There were two judgements made in cases involving the Department of Work and Pensions last week. One, where the DWP lost, was widely reported by the ‘right-on’ press. The other, where the DWP won, was not reported at all, apart from on the site of the ‘right-on’ charity that initiated it.

The case the DWP lost concerned local authority discretionary housing payments (DHP) made to homeless lone parents whose benefits have hit the welfare cap. Since DHP is apparently an irregular payment, this can cause uncertainty. Landlords are reluctant to house people on DHP as it’s bad for business. The tenant may have difficulty paying the rent if the DHP is withdrawn. The landlord may have their own bills to pay.

The case against the DWP was mounted on behalf of four lone parents who had escaped domestic abuse, and was supported by the housing charity Shelter. It was in the form of a judicial review. It successfully established that the benefit cap was, in the words of the judge, ‘capable of real damage to individuals such as the claimants. They [the claimants] are not workshy but find it, because of the care difficulties, impossible to comply with the work requirement. Most lone parents with children under two are not the sort of households the cap was intended to cover and, since they will depend on DHP, they will remain benefit households. Real misery is being caused to no good purpose.’

Strong words, highly quotable words. The Government will have to modify the benefit cap.  Since this was brought in to win the 2015 general election by painting Labour into a corner that they seem to have subsequently leapt out of, perhaps a rethink is necessary. It is, however, a very marginal issue in the scheme of things. There is a limit to the number of battered mothers of small children. A special relief could be devised while retaining the cap generally. The cap as a whole was not discredited.

Curiously, Labour has ducked raising this case in Parliament in any meaningful way. It is probably because Labour’s manifesto position on welfare cuts remains almost identical to the Conservatives. Don’t tell Jeremy.

The above case was trumpeted by the liberal media as a further blow against austerity. No mention was made of the ballooning national debt, because that is always someone else’s problem, probably your grandchildren’s.

By contrast, the following case was not reported at all.  It was an immigration issue of sorts and was supported by the Child Poverty Action Group. According to the judgment:

“The appellant is a Slovakian national. She entered the UK on 21 August 2001 with her son. She took up self-employment and her son entered school in the UK. The appellant ceased work through illness and her son continues to be in education here. The appellant claimed ESA but her claim was rejected on the basis that she did not have the required right to reside in the UK. She appealed to the First-tier Tribunal and then to the Upper Tribunal. Both tribunals dismissed her appeal. The appellant claims a derivative right of residence under EU law: she claims that her son is entitled to be educated here and that, as a result, she has a derivative right of residence as his primary carer to reside here to enable him to exercise that right. “

This was heard in the Court of Appeal, and asked for leave to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice to overturn the previous decision. If the son had a right to be educated here, their argument went, then the parent had the right to reside and to qualify for benefits.

The case failed because relevant EU law made a distinction between workers who are employed and those that are self-employed. Self-employed workers from EU states appear to have different rights of residence in this country.  Their offspring have no ‘right of education’ that can be used in isolation to exercise a right to reside by a carer. This has already been established by the European Court of Justice. Otherwise, immigrants would use the law compelling parents to send their children to school as the sole reason to remain here. To quote from the case that established this precedent:

It is apparent from the clear and precise wording of Article 12 of Regulation No 1612/68, which refers to ‘the children of a national of a Member State who is or has been employed’, that that provision applies only to the children of employed persons.”

There may be a good reason for this differentiation in rights between the employed and the self-employed. It could be that anyone could come to this country from the EU and set up any kind of small business and be self-employed.  It would not matter if the business did not provide an income necessary to support the self-employed as welfare payments could top up the rest. This could encourage a host of bogus ‘entrepreneurs’, with educable children in tow, to establish doomed businesses and use these to claim benefits on the basis of a residency based on compulsory education. While ostensibly a measure to unfairly punish those who try to set up business for themselves, this does look like it is designed to prevent a benefits dodge by migrants.

This case was not covered by any news report I can find.

It is still important to point out that the DWP does occasionally win cases, no matter how hard these left-leaning pressure groups try to bump up the national debt yet higher through exercises in virtue-signalling. It does remain strange that it is only when the DWP loses a case that we get to hear about it from the ‘right-on’ news media. Anyone would think they have an agenda.

(Image: Michael D Beckwith)

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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