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Bedroom tax win

Unite: Hated tax has to go
Hajera Blagg, Friday, November 11th, 2016


The Supreme Court has delivered a blow to Tory welfare policy by ruling that two families were discriminated against by the government’s hated “bedroom tax”.

 

The ruling, in favour of a spina bifida sufferer and a couple who care for their severely disabled grandson, opens the door for the review of thousands of similar cases to see if they are also discriminatory.

 

Despite the victory, the court ruled against five other families, including a victim of domestic violence who is forced to live in a specially secured home with a panic room for her own protection.

 

The judges made clear they were deciding on how the policy has been applied rather than its overall legality and expressed their “profoundest sympathy” for the plaintiffs.

 

Introduced in 2013, the controversial bedroom tax reduces housing benefit by 14 per cent for those living social housing who are deemed to have a spare bedroom. For households judged to have two or more spare bedrooms, housing benefit is reduced by 25 per cent.

 

Policy discriminates

The money saving penalty is supposed to prompt people to move into smaller properties, freeing up homes for larger families, however the policy discriminates against people who need extra room – such as those with disabilities.

 

The Supreme Court justices ruled in favour of Jacqueline Carmichael, who has spina bifida and lives in a two bedroom flat in Merseyside, as she cannot share a bedroom with her husband – because of the size of her hospital bed.

 

In a joint statement Mr and Mrs Carmichael said, “We have been through almost four years of the sheer hell of the ‘bedroom tax’ policy, and this decision vindicates our long and difficult fight.

 

“Out of this human rights victory over the bedroom tax we ask Theresa May to now reconsider the whole policy for everyone.”

 

The Supreme Court also found that Paul and Sue Rutherford and their disabled grandson Warren needed a spare bedroom for overnight carers and to store equipment in.

 

A department of work and pensions spokesperson said that steps would be taken “to ensure we comply with the judgements in due in course” and claimed that more than £1bn will have been spent on discretionary payments for those struggling with the bedroom tax by the end of parliament.

 

 

‘Scrap the tax’

Head of Unite Community, Liane Groves, welcomed the court’s ruling but said neither it, nor discretionary payments, were an alternative to scrapping the bedroom tax.

 

 

“The Supreme Court’s ruling is a significant victory for many people suffering under the bedroom tax, especially for those with disabilities; who it hits worst of all.

 

“However, thousands of others in need of a larger living space are still not entitled to housing benefit that will pay their full rent – even though they cannot work to earn the shortfall,” Groves said.

 

“While in the narrow parameters of the law this may be acceptable, anybody with any sense can see it is grossly unfair and targets the most vulnerable. The fact that the government have dragged families with clear legitimate cases through the courts in this manner highlights the vindictiveness that underpins this policy. The bedroom tax is reviled by the public and it is time the Tories put an end to it once and for all.”

 

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams agreed. She said, “The bedroom tax is a cruel and unnecessary policy. It is widely despised by the British public, who see it what for what it is; a callous attempt to punish low-income, social housing tenants.

 

“A Labour government will scrap it, ending the misery faced by thousands across the country,” she pledged.

 

 

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