Domestic violence victim and carers challenge ‘bedroom tax’

Published: Wednesday 27th January 2016 by The News Editor

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A victim of domestic violence and the grandparents of a severely disabled teenager are to find out the result of their challenges against the lawfulness of the so-called ”bedroom tax”.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London will announce their decision on Wednesday following a hearing in November.

One case, which has been brought by A – a single mother living in a three-bedroom council house fitted with a secure panic room to protect her from a violent ex-partner – concerns the effect of the policy on women living in Sanctuary Scheme homes.

The other, brought by Paul and Sue Rutherford, involves its impact on seriously disabled children who need overnight care.

In both cases it is argued that the policy, which came into force in April 2013, unlawfully discriminates – against women and domestic violence victims and against children in the situation of the Rutherfords’ grandson, Warren.

Judges have heard that A’s former partner has raped, assaulted and threatened to kill her, but she nevertheless faced losing £11.65 a week from her benefits.

This was because her panic room was regarded as a spare room under the regulations and A was deemed to be ”under occupying” her home.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) argued that her challenge lacked credibility because funds in the form of discretionary housing payments (DHPs) were available through local councils to people facing exceptional circumstances.

The Government rejects the term ”bedroom tax” and says the regulations remove what is in fact a ”spare room subsidy”, with the aim of encouraging people to move to smaller properties and save around £480m a year from the housing benefit bill.

The Rutherfords care for Warren, who has a rare genetic disorder which means he is unable to walk, talk or feed himself and is doubly incontinent, at their home in Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire.

The family live in a three-bedroom bungalow, adapted for his needs, with the couple in one room, Warren in another, and the third needed for carers staying overnight and to store equipment.

They launched a judicial review over the regulations, which allow for an additional bedroom if the claimant or their partner require overnight care but make no provision for children who need an overnight carer.

When their case was dismissed at the High Court in 2014, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said that a discretionary housing payment made by Pembrokeshire County Council covered the rental shortfall until April 2015 and there was no evidence to suggest it would refuse to make up the shortfall in the future.

A ruling in both appeals will be given by Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Vos.

At the time of the appeal hearing last year, a DWP spokesman said: “We do know that there are cases where people may need extra support with housing costs – which is why we have given councils £500m of funding to provide discretionary payments to those that need them – with a further £800m to be provided over the course of this Parliament.”

Published: Wednesday 27th January 2016 by The News Editor

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