Saturday, 29 April 2017

Penalty breaches human rights because couple cannot share a bedroom

Disabled woman wins bedroom tax appeal

Couples who cannot share a bedroom because of one partner’s disability have been given fresh hope of being able to escape the bedroom tax as a result of the first successful human rights challenge to the penalty.

A woman with multiple sclerosis on Friday won an appeal against Glasgow Council’s decision to deduct housing benefit for the ‘spare’ bedroom used by her husband.

The woman uses an adapted bed and keeps medical equipment in her room, meaning the couple cannot share the room. Judge Lyndy Boyd ruled that in this ‘very limited’ situation applying the bedroom tax was a breach of human rights.

A spokesperson for disability charity Scope said: ‘The Glasgow case could be really important. It’s likely that many families have similar living arrangements.’

According to government estimates, almost two thirds of the 660,000 households hit by the bedroom tax contain someone with a disability.

The first-tier tribunal case does not set a legal precedent, but may be persuasive to other judges. If appealed, the resulting case could lead to a binding law, but the Department for Work and Pensions is yet to announce whether it will appeal.

Chris Smith, a housing benefit consultant, said this would be one of ‘a flood’ of decisions over the coming months.

Sue Ramsden, policy leader at the National Housing Federation, said: ‘This situation is not that unusual, and I would expect to see many people use this to launch their own appeals.’

Judge Boyd likened the couple’s situation to a Court of Appeal decision in May 2012, which ruled children who cannot share because of a disability should be allowed an extra room. Then the DWP decided not to appeal and in March, it accepted the bedroom tax should not apply in these cases (see box). She distinguished it from a High Court decision in July which said the policy does not breach disabled people’s human rights in general.

The DWP is appealing two other tribunal decisions in Scotland, in which a judge upheld appeals on the basis that rooms were too small to be classified as bedrooms according to minimum space standards.

Fighting the bedroom tax

May 2012: The Court of Appeal rules children who cannot share a bedroom because of a disability should be allowed an extra room

July 2013: The High Court rules the bedroom tax does discriminate against disabled people, but the discrimination is not unlawful

September 2013: Three appeals against the bedroom tax are granted in Fife, Scotland, on the basis that the spare ‘bedrooms’ do not meet space standards in separate legislation

September 2013: A Westminster judge rules that a blind man’s spare room is not a bedroom because it had never been intended to be used as one

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