The Child Poverty Action Group has announced that it has issued proceedings for judicial review of two of the cuts to housing benefit for private sector tenants due to come into force on 1 April 2011.
The charity is challenging the introduction of a restriction on the size of home a claimant can claim housing benefit for along with plans to cap the amount of benefit a household can receive. From April, claimants will only be able to claim for homes with a maximum of four bedrooms instead of five, and weekly housing benefits cannot exceed £250 for a one bedroom flat, with a maximum £400 for a four bedroom house.
The cuts being challenged were part of a package of measures announced in the emergency budget in July 2010 and in the spending review in October 2010.
The cuts are likely to have a dramatic effect in London in particular where the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has said that around 9,000 London households will have to leave their homes. The charity claims that this could mean upwards of 20,000 children will have to move, 14,000 out of their local area.
The chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, has warned that the cuts could result in families being split.
"Children will be forced to move away from schools, friends, neighbourhoods and family. For some this may include moving away from another parent, most often their Dad," Mr Garnham said.
"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. 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.
"David Cameron made a clear promise before the election to make British 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' bailout that hit the ordinary taxpayer," he added.
The barristers for the Child Poverty Action Group are Martin Westgate QC and Jamie Burton from Doughty Street Chambers and the judgement is likely to be delivered in June. If the charity is successful it will argue for a suspension or reversal of the changes and a rebate for claimants for any loss of housing benefit since 1 April.