The austerity-motivated reforms of the UK benefit system have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups. Lone mothers are challenging these regulations as discriminatory. Their claims raise an under-theorised question: how should courts adjudicate claims for status equality in the realm of fiscal policy? The courts are adopting a fragmented model of equality that artificially divides status and economic inequalities. This approach fails to fully account for the multiple dimensions of disadvantage at stake in these claims. Using a substantive equality framework, this article uncovers the intertwined status and economic inequalities perpetuated by the benefit reforms. It then proceeds to evaluate how the courts’ fragmented approach to equality distorts the justification evaluation. Substantive equality can enrich the justification analysis in a manner that both respects the institutional limits of the court and holds the government to account for discrimination in social benefits.