Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Legal bid fails to stop housing benefit reforms

The High Court has dismissed a claim for a judicial review of the government’s decision to limit housing benefit payments for tenants in the private rented sector.

Charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust argued the government acted outside the law in the way it implemented the change, and that work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith failed to comply with legislation on equality.

But Justice Underwood ruled the government did have the power to introduce the changes to the way local housing allowance payments are calculated, and was not in breach of section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

He noted that the legislative grounding for the change is a ‘peculiarly intricate jigsaw puzzle’ and criticised the form of the department’s equality impact assessment, but said the problems did not go far enough to constitute a ‘legal flaw’.

The case concerned the government’s move to limit local housing allowance payment increases to the consumer price index measure of inflation. The government introduced limits on LHA payments in April 2011, and then announced a freeze on the payments for 2012/13, followed by CPI-linked increases.

Previously LHA payments had been set by local housing officers in line with average rents in their areas, and recalculated on a monthly basis.

The government introduced the changes through the Rent Officers (Housing Benefit Functions)(Amendment) Order 2012. Z2K argued this was unlawful because it was outside the government’s legal power – or ultra vires – and the secretary of state failed to comply with his duties under the Equality Act.

The dismissal of the case follows an earlier failed challenge to the government’s welfare reforms, when charity the Child Poverty Action Group argued the LHA caps are unlawful as they disproportionately hit minority families.

Z2K said it would appeal against the latest ruling.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Daniel Sweeney

    The correct route is to challenge under HRA provisions not Equality Act, and there are clearer cases to be considered if the equality route is going to be followed. I'm thinking marital /relationship breakdown, access to children, Men in shared accommodation or men in single bedroom accomodation. Todays question is 'Is it appropriate for a 14 year old girl to share a bed with her Father?' I can speculate on teh view of the Social Services and Child protection teams. The Equality legislation is not a panacea, in fact it is inherently flawed due to the lack of a general 'non unjustified discrimination clause'. Even with the reversal of the burden of proof , peole are having to jump through hoops and the whole process is too open to legal chicanery..

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  • michael barratt

    Unfortunately when you go to law, at best you get the law that is not necessarily justice.

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  • Georgina Goldsmith

    Ok if the justice is right ok then. But all people should be treated equally that means whether your in private, social, shared ownership, buy to let, Owner then treated all people alike. Then all should be ask to pay extra for the space bedroom's .

    You cannot have one law for Social Housing and Private and others get away scot! FREE

    But you cannot expect people to keep meeting these high social rents and service charges and by decrease social rents, service charges to eliminate housing benefit and pay people a Living Wages

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  • Georgina Goldsmith

    Universal Credit has been developed following consultations with US welfare gurus, who told him to make claiming benefits more complex and more difficult becuase the US experience is that this decreases take up. I am absolutely sick of journalists blandly reporting the Government spin that it will make things simpler. IT WON'T!
    Furthermore, it was always a lie that benefits paid more than working, but Unversal Credit will for the first time bring sanctions to bear on workers, which will impoverish people unable to extend their hours or doing zero hour contracts.
    This colossal white elephant is Iain Duncan Smith's vanity project. That no one in the Government or DWP has had the courage to tell this man how incompetent he is and to get out of the kitchen before that incompetence brings destitution on millions shames them all.
    He is probably the most stupid and incompetent minister since the war; what a shame the Tories didn't kick him out when they stopped his disastrous leadership before he took them into the abyss.
    That fate now awaits Britain's poorest.

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  • Tenantplustwo........i completely agree with all points about idiot duncan smith.....this man will be remembered by millions of tenants and landlords...not forgetting his other idiot mate freud.

    when will government wake up and smell the coffee!

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