Disabled tenants take their challenge against the controversial ‘bedroom-tax’ to the Court Of Appeal

Five disabled individuals who are affected by the Government’s ‘bedroom-tax’ policy began their appeal yesterday at the Court of Appeal to challenge last year’s High Court ruling which stated that the implementation of the Government’s much criticised ‘bedroom-tax’ policy is lawful. The appeal is listed for a 3 day hearing and is set to highlight the predicament faced by those affected by the controversial policy.

Since the 1st April 2013, people in the social rented sector who are deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and people deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%. This includes those with disabilities who cannot move to smaller accommodation or who argue that they require the extra space.

The High Court accepted last year that the new rules are discriminatory and decided that for disabled adults the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful. This did not however apply to disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities. The High Court held that such discrimination against adults with disabilities was justified.

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, stated: “Thousands of disabled people and their families are being driven into further poverty by the bedroom tax and the failure of the legislation not to discriminate against disabled people.

“This is unacceptable and we hope that the Court will rule it is also illegal.”

Lawyers acting for some of the Claimants will argue that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is therefore unlawful.

Anne McMurdie from Public Law Solicitors who represent three of the Claimants said:

“This case is about fairness. It is about disabled people being paid housing benefit to meet the size and type of accommodation they need because of their disabilities and not being financially penalised because they are disabled.

“Those with disabilities most in need of protection and support are bearing the brunt of the Government’s welfare cuts. These measures will result in disabled people falling into debt and being at risk of eviction and homelessness. Since the benefit change was implemented in April 2013 there has been a wealth of research and analysis making clear the serious adverse impact on disabled people.”

Martin Westgate QC, who represents four of the families, told the Court. “In some cases, the need is for a specific number of bedrooms. In other cases the Appellants need to occupy their current accommodation and they cannot move.”

One of the Applicants is a mother who cannot work because she looks after her daughter, who is a blind wheelchair user. “It would be unrealistic to expect her to share her home with a lodger,” Westgate QC said. “They cannot move.”

The High Court also ruled last summer that Iain Duncan Smith had fulfilled his public sector equality duty (PSED) under the Equality Act because he had “properly considered” the effects of the bedroom tax on disabled people. The Government’s decision to provide some extra funding for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) which is to help some tenants pay some of the shortfall in their rent, was seen by the Court as a reasonable approach to the difficulties faced by many disabled people.

Lawyers for the five disabled Claimants will be fighting the case in the court of appeal on the grounds of breaches of both the PSED and the Human Rights Act.

The case continues.
If you require further information please contact Aisha Akhtar, Solicitor in the Social Housing team on 020 8799 1884