Disappointment after ‘bedroom tax’ legal challenge is dismissed
The High Court has dismissed a challenge brought by a group of disabled people against the changes to social housing benefit cuts for residents who have a spare bedroom known as the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ and have a disability.
The ruling following a 3 day hearing in May, is a significant set back for those hoping to over turn the Government’s changes to housing benefit. The Court held that Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 does not constitute unlawful discrimination contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights nor did the Secretary of State violate S149 of the Equality Act 2010 when he introduced them.
Since April this year, people deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% while those with two or more spare bedrooms have seen reductions of 25%.
Lawyers representing the families argued that the extra bedrooms were needed for space such as to store medical equipment and that the changes would have a huge impact on these families which meant the changes were discriminatory.
The Court did not agree and did however criticise the Government for being too slow to implement regulations preventing a reduction in housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for disabled children who are unable to share.
The Government has stated that these changes will be introduced later this year, it also states that it has provided more funds to Local Authorities to use as discretionary payments to those affected by the Welfare changes. An extra £35m will be added to the fund for those specifically affected by the housing benefit changes.
A statement from the Department for Work and Pensions DWP stated: “We are pleased to learn that the Court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people.”
“Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people’s extra bedrooms.”
An estimated 660,000 working-age social housing households who have been deemed to have spare bedrooms have lost an average of £14 per week since their benefit was cut at the beginning of April.
Campbell Robb, the Chief Executive of the housing charity Shelter said, “We are really concerned that theses families will now struggle to meet their rent and may end up losing their home.”
Lawyers acting on behalf of the ten families are set to appeal the decision and campaigners vow to fight on.
If you require further information please contact Aisha Akhtar, Solicitor in the Social Housing team on 020 8799 1884