Bedroom Tax challenge by disabled people to be heard in Supreme Court

By agency reporter
January 19, 2015

A landmark legal battle being brought by people with disabilities against the Government’s controversial ‘Bedroom Tax’ has been given permission to go to the Supreme Court.

Permission to take the case to the Highest Court in the UK came following last year’s Court of Appeal decision, which upheld a previous High Court judgment that the new housing benefit regulations were lawful.

Since 1 April 2013, people in the social rented sector deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent and people deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25 per cent, even when their disability means they cannot move to smaller accommodation or they need the extra space.

In July 2013, the High Court accepted that the new housing benefit rules introduced discriminated against disabled adults but found that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful.

The High Court however accepted that, for a disabled child, unable to share a bedroom with another child because of their disabilities the new housing benefit rules were discriminatory and this discrimination was not justified.

Following the High Court’s ruling, the Government introduced new regulations exempting households from the housing benefit reduction where children are unable to share a room because of their disability. The High Court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the equivalent situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified.

In February 2014, adults with disabilities took their case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that they should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need as a result of their disabilities and that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.

Jayson and Jacqueline Carmichael from Southport, who were part of the legal action and represented by law frirm Leigh Day, sought an appeal on the grounds that their position was indistinguishable from that of the disabled children who were now exempted.

However, the Court of Appeal refused this argument on the basis that the differential treatment of adults and children was reasonable and justified.

Charities, Social Landlords, Local Authorities and Advice Agencies as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

Two law firms, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors, representing those five adults with disabilities, will now take the legal challenge to the Supreme Court later this year following permission granted on 24 December 2014.

Ugo Hayter from the law firm Leigh Day who is representing Mr and Mrs Carmichael, said: “This is a very positive step as we are able to continue the fight on behalf of our clients against the Bedroom Tax.

“The Court of Appeal last year recognised that our clients and thousands of disabled people across the UK had a need for accommodation not provided for by the new housing benefit rules, however the Court decided that disabled tenants should not have their housing needs met on an equivalent basis to their able bodied counterparts, just because they are disabled.

“Instead disabled tenants continue to be forced to rely on short term and discretionary payments.

“Our thoughts remain with the thousands of disabled tenants who, almost two years on from the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, continue to be faced with uncertainty, poverty and risk of eviction from these regulations.”

Anne McMurdie from Public Law Solicitors, representing three of the adults bringing the appeal said: “The decision by the Supreme Court to grant permission for the appeals to proceed is a recognition of the importance of the issues raised by our clients.

“The Government has sought to make savings by targeting the most vulnerable in our society. On the Government’s own figures at least 440,000 disabled households are losing out as a result of the Bedroom Tax.

“There is compelling and growing evidence of the terrible adverse impact on disabled tenants, having to make the dreadful choice between paying the rent and buying food or heating their homes.

“Disabled tenants are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for housing benefit to be paid at a level which meets their needs – for the same rights as others. Discretionary payments are not the answer.”

* Leigh Day Solicitors: http://www.leighday.co.uk/

* Public Law Solicitors: http://www.publiclawsolicitors.co.uk

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