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High Court finds Universal Credit childcare element is irrational and discriminates against women

Related Member(s):
Chris Buttler, Jessica Jones
Related Practice Area(s):
Public Law

The High Court has today given judgment in R (Salvato) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] EWHC 102, a claim brought by a single mother against the requirement in Universal Credit that a parent must pay for childcare upfront in order to be eligible to claim the childcare element of Universal Credit. That requirement forces low-income families into a cycle of debt to meet their upfront childcare costs – and childcare is the only aspect of Universal Credit to which a proof of payment rule applies.

Mr Justice Chamberlain allowed the claim on both grounds of challenge, finding that:

  1. The childcare element of Universal Credit violates Article 14 ECHR read with Article 8 and/or Article 1 of Protocol 1, because it indirectly discriminates against women by imposing a “proof of payment” rule before childcare support can be claimed. Women are more likely than men to require childcare support in order to work, and women are less likely than men (because of the gender pay gap) to be able to satisfy the proof of payment rule, and the rule therefore causes women unjustified disadvantage contrary to Article 14.
  2. The proof of payment rule for the childcare element of Universal Credit is also irrational, because it acts as a barrier to work (contrary to the stated aims of Universal Credit, which includes “making work pay”).

Chris Buttler and Jessica Jones acted for the claimant, instructed by Tessa Gregory and Carolin Ott at Leigh Day. The claim was supported by evidence from Save the Children UK, Gingerbread (the charity for lone-parent families), the National Day Nurseries Association and the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years providers.

Useful link(s):

The judgment can be found here.

An article in The Mirror on this case can be found here.