The ruling on the 'bedroom tax'

Published: 27th Jan 2016

In brief

Claim

The courts have said that the so-called 'bedroom tax' is illegal.

Conclusion

The decision affects victims of domestic violence whose homes have 'panic spaces', and disabled children who need overnight carers. It doesn't spell the end of the policy in general and is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

“Court of Appeal rules that ‘bedroom tax’ is unlawful”

Child Poverty Action Group, 27 January 2016

The court cases decided on 27 January are significant for victims of domestic violence and disabled children, but don’t spell the end of the 'bedroom tax' generally.

In 2013 the government removed what it calls a ‘spare room subsidy’ from social housing tenants. People now get less Housing Benefit if they have bedrooms considered surplus to requirements, unless included on the list of exemptions.

The Court of Appeal has now said that the change discriminates against two particular groups of people, in breach of human rights law.

The government had argued that they could be helped by 'Discretionary Housing Payments', but the court felt that not including them on the list of outright exemptions wasn't justified.

The first group affected is victims of domestic violence whose spare rooms have been adapted as a ‘panic space’ under the government’s Sanctuary Scheme.

The Child Poverty Action Group says that 281 households are in the Sanctuary Scheme and affected by the 'bedroom tax'. So the judgment seems to affect only that number of particularly vulnerable families, rather than all domestic violence victims.

The other case was disabled children needing overnight carers. The court decided that disabled adults and disabled children were treated differently by the changed Housing Benefit regime. This discrimination was “very difficult to justify”.

Again, this finding is important to families in this situation, but not necessarily others.

The case is now going to the Supreme Court. It was already due to hear a similar case on the ‘bedroom tax’ policy in March, and has now said that it will revisit these newer cases as part of the same decision.

So the Supreme Court case is going to be very important.

Update 29 January 2016

We added confirmation that the cases are being appealed to the Supreme Court.


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