A move by the Court of Appeal declaring the Bedroom tax unlawful has been greeted by Unite as a “significant step forward.”
Judges in London ruled that in two separate cases – those of a victim of domestic violence and the grandparents of a severely disabled teenager – Government policy amounted to unlawful discrimination.
The judgement is being seen as a major blow to under-pressure Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith.
Campaigners hailed the ruling and called on the Tories to scrap the tax altogether. However any immediate change in policy is unlikely after the Department for Work and Pensions said it would appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that it has given councils money to make discretionary payments to those facing hardship.
The first case was brought by Paul and Sue Rutherford – grandparents of Warren, who is a seriously disabled 15 year old boy who needs overnight care in a specially adapted room.
The other involved ‘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.
In both cases, the claimants faced a cut in housing benefit because they were deemed to be “under-occupying” the additional rooms which were classified as spare.
National coordinator for Unite Community Liane Groves said, “We welcome the Court’s rulings as a significant step forward in this fight. It is good news for those in the two groups of vulnerable people affected by this ruling.
“However we must renew the call for this grossly unfair tax to be scrapped altogether,” she added. “People around the country understood the implications of the Bedroom Tax long ago, but we are still waiting for the Tories to wake up to the human tragedies they are creating.
“These changes to housing benefit have had a catastrophic impact –and ministers can now be in no doubt that is the case,” Groves went on to say. “This government needs to listen to the courts as well as the public and scrap this hated tax.”
With Labour having a long-standing and settled policy to abolish the Bedroom Tax, pressure on the government is expected to grow in the wake of the rulings.
Last month the DWP found that the policy was failing to meet its key aim of freeing up larger council properties. Just one in nine affected tenants were able to avoid the tax by moving to a smaller property.
Three-quarters of people hit by the tax say they have had to cut back on food, according to an independent report published by the DWP last December.
The research found that 46 per cent said they had cut back on heating and 33 per cent on travel.
Findings by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and Ipsos Mori were slipped out by the Tories on the last day of parliament before the winter break.
The study found landlords were very concerned that some tenants were “in severe poverty and unable to pay the shortfall.” The report said 78 per cent of claimants who were still affected by the bedroom tax after two years of the policy were regularly running out of money by the end of the week or month.
It found that the effects of cutting back “had an impact on some claimants’ health and emotional wellbeing, with the most vulnerable reporting experiences of stress and worry.”