Friday, 28 April 2017

Rape victim legally challenges bedroom tax

A victim of rape, assault, harassment and stalking has launched a legal challenge against the bedroom tax on the grounds it is ‘discriminatory’.

The claimant issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the secretary of state for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, on Friday last week.

Known only as ‘A’ to protect her identity for her safety, the claimant has a specially adapted home with a panic room, and says the new housing benefit regulations are discriminatory and will have devastating consequences for herself and her son.

The bedroom tax came into effect on 1 April. Under the policy, social tenants of working age on housing benefit will have their payments cut if they are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms. 

The change means that A and her 10-year-old son, who currently live in a three-bedroom property, are only entitled to receive housing benefit for a two-bedroom property. Her housing benefit is to be reduced by 14 per cent as a result of the new policy. A’s legal team say that it is not feasible for her to move or take in a lodger.

The police adapted her property because her life was at risk from an ex-partner with a history of serious violence. The home has a ‘panic space’ and a specialist ‘sanctuary system’, which includes reinforced doors, electric alarms and alarms linked to the police station.

Rebekah Carrier from her legal team at Hopkin Murray Beskine solicitors and barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher at Doughty Street Chambers, argue that the secretary of state has failed to take into account the disproportionate impact of the bedroom tax upon victims of domestic violence and lone parents, who are generally women.

The claim is supported by Women’s Aid, which works to end domestic violence against women and children.

Ms Carrier said the changes to housing benefit were having a ‘catastrophic impact’ on vulnerable people.

She added: ‘Our client’s life is at risk and she is terrified.  She lives in a property which has been specially adapted by the police, at great expense, to protect her and her child. It is ridiculous that she is now being told she must move to another property (where she will not have any of these protections) or else take in a lodger. 

‘She is a vulnerable single parent who has been a victim of rape and assault. The secretary of state cannot seriously suggest that it is appropriate for her to take a stranger into her home.’

A spokesperson for the DWP said: ‘We are confident that these measures are lawful and they do not discriminate against any groups.’

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