Challenging the two-child limit on the basis of discrimination

Case name: R ( SC & Ors) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Tax credits are designed to help with the cost of bringing up a family; but families can only claim credits for the first two children. The claimant in this case is a mother of three children, she cannot take the contraceptive pill because it interferes with other medication she takes and she does not agree with abortion. We believe that the two-child limit discriminates against families like this claimant, so we intervened in her case.

Legal issue

Is the revised benefit cap which restricts child tax credits and universal credit to the first two children discriminatory?

Background

The woman in this case is disabled, has epilepsy, learning difficulties and a personality disorder.

She cannot take the contraceptive pill because it interferes with her epilepsy medication, her last two children were conceived by accident and she does not agree with abortion.

Tax credit rules mean that the woman can only claim support for her first two children.

Why we were involved

Our goal is to make sure we have the foundations for a rights-respecting society.

We have a duty to protect people from discrimination. We believe that the benefits cap discriminates against this woman and others like her.

Our hope was that if the woman's case was successful, the benefits cap would be abolished.

We used our power to intervene in this case, which is when we provide specialist advice or evidence to the court. We intervened in the Administrative Court, and again in the Court of Appeal, arguing that the benefits cap discriminates against certain families, particularly single parents with children under five. 

What we did

We intervened in this case, making it clear to the Supreme Court that the benefits cap discriminates against certain families, particularly single parents with children under five.

What happened

Despite the woman not winning her case, the court was divided in its judgement and agreed that the case raised important issues which needed careful and sympathetic consideration.

The House of Lords also called for an urgent review of the benefits cap.

Who will benefit and how

More than 225,000 households have had their benefit capped at some point. Although this case was unsuccessful, it raised an important issue.

Publicity surrounding the case has highlighted the problems caused by the benefits cap and we are pleased that the House of Lords is now calling for it to be reviewed.

We hope that the government will get rid of the cap, ending what we believe is discrimination towards this woman and thousands like her.

The case has now been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court .

Date of hearing

Date of outcome