Bedroom tax battle set for high court


theweeksubThe high court will this week hear the legal claims of 10 disabled people who have been hit by the government’s controversial “bedroom tax”.

The judicial review of the decision to cut housing benefit for disabled people judged to be “over-occupying” their social housing will be heard over three days from Wednesday (15 May).

Lawyers acting for the 10 individuals and families say that the changes – which came into force on 1 April – will have a far greater impact on disabled people than non-disabled people.

They say the new housing benefit regulation breaches the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The new regulation means a working-age single person or a couple with no children in social housing will have their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they occupy a two-bedroom home and by 25 per cent if they occupy a home with three or more bedrooms.

Two of the claimants, Jacqueline Carmichael and Richard Rourke, came forward following work by the grassroots network of disabled campaigners, We are Spartacus.

Carmichael lives in a two-bedroom housing association flat with her husband, her full-time carer, and has to sleep in a fixed position in a hospital bed with an electronic pressure mattress.

Her husband cannot share her bed for safety reasons, and there is no space in the room for a second bed, so he sleeps in the second bedroom.

Since April, the Carmichaels have had their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent. Their council has granted them a discretionary housing payment to cover the shortfall in their rent, but this will only last six months.

Rourke, a wheelchair-user, lives in a three-bedroom bungalow, with substantial adaptations.

He has a disabled daughter, also a wheelchair-user, who is studying at university but returns home for holidays, and often at weekends. The third bedroom is a box-room used to store mobility and care equipment, including his hoist and powerchair.

Rourke cannot move home because there is no wheelchair-accessible, two-bedroom social housing available, or anything suitable in the private sector.

He has had his housing benefit cut by 25 per cent, as he has two bedrooms too many under the new regulation. He has applied for a discretionary housing payment, but it has not yet been decided, so he is now accruing rent arrears.

Ugo Hayter, from solicitors Leigh Day, who is representing Carmichael and Rourke, said that thousands of disabled people were experiencing “devastating consequences” as a result of the bedroom tax.

He 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.”

9 May 2013