Friday, 25 April 2014

High Court to hear ‘bedroom tax’ challenge

The High Court will today begin hearing a series of legal challenges to the government’s ‘bedroom tax’.

Lawyers representing 10 families who feel they have been discriminated against by the penalty for under-occupation of social housing will set out their arguments over the next three days.

Under the penalty, which came into force on 1 April, working-age social tenants who are receiving housing benefit have their payments cut if they have one or more spare bedrooms.

The three law firms representing the 10 families argue they need all the bedrooms in their properties, and are unable to take measures to make up the shortfall in housing benefit by increasing their working hours or taking in lodgers.

Law firm Hopkin Murray Beskine is representing five families who have disabled children or who have suffered from domestic violence.

Another firm, Leigh Day, is representing a disabled woman who has spina bifida – Jacqueline Carmichael – and widower Richard Rourke, who is also disabled.

Public Law Solicitors has taken a further three cases: two families with disabled children, and a man who suffers from mental health problems.

The government has made discretionary housing payments available to help people who are affected by the bedroom tax and other welfare reforms, and these have been claimed successfully by some of the families. However they argue that the payments do not offer long-term security, and are insufficient to meet the needs of all those affected.

Ugo Hayter, from the human rights team at Leigh Day, said: ‘We hope that the court will rule that these regulations are discriminatory in that they completely fail to make any provision for those who need larger accommodation as a result of their or their family members’ disability.

‘We hope that the government will be made to amend these regulations and reverse the devastating consequences currently being experienced by thousands of people with disabilities around the country.’

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