The Supreme Court has given five adults with disabilities permission for a legal challenge over the impact of the Government’s under-occupation charge or ‘bedroom tax’.
Changes introduced on 1 April 2013 – through new Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefits Regulations 2006 – meant those in the social rented sector and considered to have one spare bedroom saw their housing benefit cut by 14%. Those with two or more spare bedrooms saw their housing benefit reduced by 25%.
In July 2013 the High Court found that the new regulations discriminated against disabled adults. However, the judges (Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Cranston) found that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful.
The High Court also ruled that where a disabled child was unable to share a bedroom with another child because of their disabilities, the new housing benefit rules were discriminatory and this discrimination was not justified.
The Government subsequently brought in regulations exempting households from the housing benefit reduction where children were unable to share a room on account of their disability.
The High Court considered that discrimination against adults with disabilities was justified. This was even in situations where – like children – they could not share a room.
A group of adults with disabilities took their case to the Court of Appeal in February 2014. They argued that their housing benefit should be paid in full, claiming that their position was indistinguishable from that of disabled children.
But the Court of Appeal ruled that the differential treatment of adults and children was reasonable and justified.
The claimants were granted permission to appeal by the Supreme Court on 24 December.
Ugo Hayter from law firm Leigh Day, who is representing two claimants (Mr and Mrs Carmichael), said: “This is a very positive step as we are able to continue the fight on behalf of our clients against the Bedroom Tax.
“The Court of Appeal last year recognised that our clients and thousands of disabled people across the UK had a need for accommodation not provided for by the new housing benefit rules, however the Court decided that disabled tenants should not have their housing needs met on an equivalent basis to their able bodied counterparts, just because they are disabled.”
He added: “Instead disabled tenants continue to be forced to rely on short term and discretionary payments.
“Our thoughts remain with the thousands of disabled tenants who, almost two years on from the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, continue to be faced with uncertainty, poverty and risk of eviction from these regulations.”
Anne McMurdie from Public Law Solicitors, representing three of the adult claimants, said: “The decision by the Supreme Court to grant permission for the appeals to proceed is a recognition of the importance of the issues raised by our clients…..
“Disabled tenants are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for housing benefit to be paid at a level which meets their needs – for the same rights as others. Discretionary payments are not the answer.”
See also: Room to manoeuvre - Dean Underwood’s analysis of the Court of Appeal ruling. (Dean is now a barrister at Cornerstone Barristers)