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'Bedroom tax' lawyer welcomes Appeal Court judgment

Ugo Hayter has reacted to court ruling on the lawfulness of the 'bedroom tax'

Posted on 27 January 2016

‘Bedroom tax’ lawyer Ugo Hayter who is currently representing two disabled clients who are challenging the lawfulness of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ has reacted to today’s ruling from the Court of Appeal.

The Government introduced the spare room subsidy in April 2013 with the aim of encouraging people in social housing in receipt of housing benefit to move into smaller properties and save some £480m a year.

People assessed as having one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14%, and by 25% if they have two or more spare bedrooms.

The spare room subsidy has proved controversial since it was introduced with a number of different groups claiming that it discriminated against them on the grounds of disability.

People living with disabilities often need extra space for bulky equipment, or for carers to stay in.

Today’s judgment ruled in favour of two claimants who successfully argued that the policy unfairly discriminates against women and victims of domestic violence, and on severely disabled children who need overnight care.

One case was bought by a woman living in a three-bedroom council house that is fitted with a secure panic room to protect her from a violent ex-partner.

The second case was bought by Paul and Sue Rutherford who look after their severely disabled grandson, Warren, who is unable to walk, talk or feed himself and is doubly incontinent.

Their bungalow has been adapted for Warren’s needs and has three bedrooms, one of which the Rutherfords use to store equipment needed by Warren, and for his overnight carer.  They were assessed as under-occupying their bungalow and their housing benefit was reduced.

The Rutherfords challenged the lawfulness of the regulations which have no provision for children who need overnight care. The case was dismissed in the High Court in November 2014.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Vos announced that they were allowing the appeals in both cases on the ground that the "admitted discrimination in each case ... has not been justified by the Secretary of State".

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was given permission to challenge the Court of Appeal's ruling at the Supreme Court.

Ugo Hayter, a solicitor in the human rights department at Leigh Day is currently representing a group of disabled adults who are challenging the lawfulness of the spare room subsidy. They argue that their position is no different from that of the disabled children who are exempt from the charge.

Ugo Hayter said:

"We welcome the Court of Appeal's common sense rulings in these cases.

"My disabled clients are challenging the 'bedroom tax' on the basis that it unlawfully discriminates against them, their case will be heard by the Supreme Court in March 2016. In their cases the Court of Appeal admitted that the spare room subsidy discriminated against the disabled adult claimants, however it found that that discrimination was justified.

"In these cases the Court of Appeal has rightly ruled that the discrimination caused by the spare room subsidy has not been justified by the Secretary of State.

"My clients are reassured by the Court of Appeal's positive ruling and look to the Supreme Court to recognise and bring to an end the awful hardship they, and many other disabled people nationally, have been subjected to since the introduction of the bedroom tax."