Thursday, 24 April 2014

Bedroom tax to be introduced before legal challenge

A legal challenge to the government’s penalty for the under-occupation of social housing will not go ahead until after the policy is introduced on 1 April.

A High Court judge set a timetable for the case yesterday, saying the court will rule on whether it can go ahead by mid-March. If it does get the go ahead then a full hearing is unlikely to take place until May.

The challenge has been brought by 10 disabled people and their families. Under the under-occupation penalty, or ‘bedroom tax’, housing benefit for working-age social housing tenants will be cut if they are deemed to have spare rooms.

Lawyers for the families involved say all 10 applicants are in danger of having their benefits reduced when the regulations, affecting some 660,000 tenants, come into force.

Their lawyers say that, unless the families move from their homes into smaller properties, they face building up rent arrears and being forced out any way.

But their disabilities mean they need to occupy either their current accommodation or housing of a similar size, and being forced to move to other accommodation will result in disadvantages they would not suffer if they were not disabled.

They want the courts to rule that the new regulations are unlawful as they ‘unjustifiably discriminate against housing benefit claimants who are disabled or care for disabled family members’.

They say the new regulations fail to take into account their circumstances, contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects against discrimination.

They also argue Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has failed to comply with his public equality duty under the 2010 Equality Act.

Government lawyers are arguing the applications lack merit and should not be allowed to proceed.

The 10 applicants come from families living in the London boroughs of Hackney and Southwark and other areas including Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester and Birmingham.

Many of the disabled persons are children and cannot be named for legal reasons.

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    The High Court’s decision regarding the bedroom tax and disabled people is just the beginning, says Jane Plant, an associate at Weightmans

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