Disabled people who are set to be hit by the government’s controversial “bedroom tax” have won the right to an urgent judicial review of the new rules.
Lawyers acting for the 10 individuals and families taking the legal action say that the changes – due to come into force on 1 April – will have a far greater impact on disabled people than non-disabled people.
They say the regulations breach the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The judicial review of the decision to cut housing benefit for those judged to be “over-occupying” their social housing will be heard in early May.
Sue McCafferty, a member of the We are Spartacus grassroots network of disabled campaigners, said: “The policy and the legislation underpinning the ‘bedroom tax’ are fundamentally flawed and it was evident from the government’s own equality impact assessment that the regulations would have a disproportionate impact upon sick and disabled people.
“We are Spartacus are delighted that the flaws of this policy will be examined and, we hope, that the profound distress caused to those affected will soon be over.”
Ugo Hayter, from solicitors Leigh Day, who is representing two of the claimants, said: “This is an excellent result and the first step in over-ruling what we believe is an unfair piece of legislation which has disproportionate negative consequences for disabled people and is therefore discriminatory.”
The new regulation will see a working-age single person or a couple with no children in social housing having their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they occupy a two-bedroom home and by 25 per cent if they occupy a home with three or more bedrooms.
The two claimants represented by Hayter, Jacqueline Carmichael and Richard Rourke, came forward as a result of work by We are Spartacus.
Carmichael lives in a two-bedroom housing association flat with her husband, her full-time carer, and has to sleep in a fixed position in a hospital bed with an electronic pressure mattress.
Her husband cannot share her bed for safety reasons, and there is no space in the room for a second bed, so he sleeps in the second bedroom.
The Carmichaels say they cannot afford the 14 per cent benefit reduction in their housing benefit.
Rourke, a wheelchair-user, lives in a three-bedroom bungalow, with substantial adaptations.
He has a disabled daughter, also a wheelchair-user, who is studying at university but returns home for holidays, and often at weekends. The third bedroom is a tiny box-room used to store mobility and care equipment.
Rourke cannot move home because there is no wheelchair-accessible, two-bedroom social housing available. If forced to move, he risks losing access to his support network.
National Housing Federation figures released earlier this month showed that 230,000 disability living allowance (DLA) claimants would lose an average of £728 per year in housing benefit as a result of the new regulation.
Even if all the extra £30 million funding allocated by the government to help foster carers and disabled people in adapted properties was given to DLA claimants hit by the tax, they would each receive just £2.51 per week, compared with an average £14 a week loss.
27 March 2013
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com