Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bedroom Tax: High Court decision today

THE High Court is to rule on whether cuts to housing benefit for social housing residents with spare bedrooms discriminates against disabled people.

Lawyers for 10 families brought a judicial review over the 'bedroom tax' in May this year.  They say the change breaches their clients' human rights because they need the extra space for health reasons.  The families, all disabled or the parents of disabled children, challenged the changes during a three-day hearing. 

The claimants are represented by three law firms and are from various places including London, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester and Birmingham.  Their lawyers argued the benefit cut violated the Human Rights Act and Equality Act. 

Ugo Hayter from Leigh Day, which is representing two of the claimants said the legislation was "unfair" and had 'disproportionate negative consequences on disabled people and is therefore discriminatory'.

The lawyers also said the £25m the government has made available to councils to make discretionary payments to help disabled people affected by the benefit cuts is insufficient.

The government says the benefit changes were intended to reduce a £21bn annual housing benefit bill and encourage greater mobility in the social rented sector.  The Department of Work and Pensions said it was confident the measures were lawful and do not discriminate against disabled claimants or those with shared care of children. 

At the time of the High Court case, a DWP spokesman said it was 'only right' to bring back fairness to the system and pointed out there were 'two million households on the social housing waiting list and over a quarter of a million tenants... living in overcrowded homes'

The DWP added that an extra £150m in total has been made available to councils' funding for vulnerable claimants.
However, the National Housing Federation said earlier this month that the consequences of the change were worse than feared.  Rent arrears have soared in some areas while larger houses are lying empty as people refuse to move into them, it claimed. 

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