Artwork by Julia Giles

‘Bedroom Tax’ Judgment to be appealed

 

‘Bedroom Tax’ Judgment to be appealed

Lawyers representing adults and children with disabilities who are challenging the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ have vowed to fight on after today losing part of their High Court battle to halt the controversial new housing benefit regulations that came into force on 1st April this year.

Since 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%.

The claimants all argued that these new Housing Benefit rules discriminate against people with disabilities.  The Court accepted that they are discriminatory, but decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful – apart from in cases of disabled children unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities. 

Disabled Children and Bedroom Sharing

The Court found that the Secretary of State has been aware that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children since May 2012, and they were highly critical of his failure to make Regulations to provide for them. Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs “cannot be allowed to continue”.  The Government must now make Regulations “very speedily” to show that there should be “no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities.”

The Wider Group

However the Court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified.  Lawyers for adults with disabilities today said that they believe this cannot be right.  They should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need.

Appeal

Lawyers for adults with disabilities today confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful. 

Disabled children and their families still do not know whether in fact they are entitled to full housing benefit to meet the costs of their homes that they need as the Government has not made new Regulations about this. The Court ordered that the the Claimants can apply to the Court for a further order  on this issue if the Government do not make new Regulations by 31 October 2013.

Since the new housing legislation was introduced it has had a devastating effect on many people across the country. Charities, Social Landlords and Advice Agencies have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

3 law firms are representing the Claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors.

Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine said:

“The Government’s position in relation to disabled children is incomprehensible. Fourteen months ago (in May 2012) the Court of Appeal held that the Secretary of State was discriminating against disabled children who need to share a bedroom because of their disabilities, yet by February 2013 when these proceedings were issued no action had been taken. 

“The Prime Minister then told the House of Commons in March that disabled children were exempt, when this was plainly not the case. When he was questioned the Government rushed out a circular to local authorities, which suggested that the rule may not apply to some disabled children; yet the Government continued to fight this case.   It’s no wonder local authorities and affected children and families are confused.

“We are pleased that the Court has recognised that the current situation is not acceptable and that the Government must act quickly. We are disappointed however that the Government has delayed for so long already and is still foot-dragging. Until it is absolutely clear that these Claimant families and others like them will not have their benefit cut on the basis that they live or hope to live in homes which meet their children’s needs, these Claimants, like the disabled adults, have no choice but to appeal.”
Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said:

“This is a most disappointing result. We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal.  Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”

Emma Burgess from Public Law Solicitors said:

“The Government has failed to recognise that many people with disabilities will not be able to make up the shortfall in rent by working or taking in a lodger; and many will not be able to move due to the nature of their disabilities.  The Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme ‘safety-net’ relied on by the government is inadequate to plug the gap.

A July survey by the Papworth Trust, backed by the National Housing Federation , said ‘9 out of 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills to pay the Bedroom Tax if they are refused a safety-net housing payment’.

“Left unchanged these measures will see disabled people facing eviction and homelessness.”



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