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'Bedroom Tax' legal challenge goes to the Supreme Court

Bedroom Tax challenge by people with disabilities and adult carers goes to the UK's highest Court for a 3 day hearing

Posted on 26 February 2016

Lawyers representing people with disabilities and adult carers will go to the Supreme Court on Monday 29 February for a 3-day hearing to argue that the ‘bedroom tax’ unjustifiably discriminates against disabled people.

Since 1 April 2013, people in the social rented sector deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their eligible rent reduced by 14% and people deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%. This is the case even when their disability means they cannot move to smaller accommodation or they need the extra space.

Two sets of cases have travelled through the court system. The first set is brought by Jacqueline Carmichael, James Daly, Mervyn Drage, JD, and Richard Rourke. (An anonymity order has been made for JD to protect the identity of her severely disabled daughter).

The second set includes the case of Paul and Susan Rutherford who care for their severely disabled grandson, Warren, in a special-adapted three-bedroom bungalow in Pembrokeshire.

In both cases the High Court accepted that the regulations were discriminatory, but decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful.

In the first set of cases the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the High Court’s ruling. In the second case the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court’s ruling and found that the Government had failed to justify the discrimination.

The Supreme Court is being asked to make a final ruling on both cases. The claimants are represented by Central England Law Centre, Leigh Day Solicitors and the Child Poverty Action Group.

Karen Ashton from Central England Law Centre said: “This case is about fairness. It is about disabled people being entitled to be paid sufficient housing benefit for the size and type of accommodation they need because of their disabilities and not being penalised because they are disabled. The Government’s own evaluation of the scheme found 57% of those affected by the scheme reported that they had cut back on essentials such as food and heating costs.

"The UK is the first country to be investigated by the UN Committee on the ground there is reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"It is believed that the ‘bedroom tax’ is one of the policies that will be considered, but we hope that, by the time the Committee reports on its investigation, it will be of historical interest only because the Supreme Court will have found the policy to be unjustifiably discriminatory.”

Ugo Hayter solicitor at Leigh Day who acts for the Carmichaels and Richard Rourke said:

“My clients are looking 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.

“They don’t want special treatment, they just want the ability to live with dignity and the same security enjoyed as of right by their able-bodied counterparts, who aren’t made to rely on short term and discretionary payments to meet their housing costs.

"The Government has sought to make savings by targeting the most vulnerable in our society. However, there are no savings to be made in this area. Because of their disabilities, my clients will always require help from the Government to meet their housing needs, all the Government is doing is making their access to that help unacceptably difficult and insecure. My clients have tirelessly continued to challenge the Government for the last 3 years, the Supreme Court Judges are their final hope.”

Mike Spencer, solicitor at the Child Poverty Action Group, who represents the adult carers Paul and Sue Rutherford, said:

“Paul and Sue Rutherford work round the clock to care for their severely disabled grandson Warren. Without carers who can stay overnight they just wouldn't be able to cope and Warren would have to go into care, at substantial cost to the taxpayer. We hope that the Supreme Court will uphold the judgment of the Court of Appeal and grant them the security they need to stay in their home.”