Bedroom Tax: Families win Supreme Court cases against government

Policy found to be discriminatory in two cases

Image: Joshua Hayes

The supreme court has ruled that the Government discriminated against a disabled woman and her husband and a severely disabled child who needs overnight care through the implementation of the ‘bedroom tax’.

In the case of Paul and Susan Rutherford, the court rejected a government appeal, ruling that the policy unlawfully discriminates against children with disabilities who need overnight care.

The Rutherfords live with their disabled grandson and have a third bedroom for his overnight carers. Adults requiring overnight care are entitled to a bedroom for that purpose, but due to what the ruling called ‘an ironic and inexplicable inconsistency’, children are not entitled to the same.

In the case of Jacqueline Carmichael, who cannot share a bedroom with her husband because needs specific sleeping equipment to manage her spina bifida, the court cited a precedent of an exemption being granted to a child in a directly comparable situation.

However, several other claimants had their challenges dismissed by the court.

Karen Ashton of Central England Law Centre, solicitor for some of those claimants, comented:

“The Supreme Court’s decision remedies the anomaly whereby disabled adults and children were treated differently if they needed a bedroom for overnight carers or where a bedroom could not be shared. This is to be welcomed.

But their judgment leaves thousands of disabled people – who need larger accommodation for other reasons connected to their disability – without an entitlement to housing benefit to pay their full rent, despite the fact that they are unable to work to find the extra money. The court may have found this to be lawful, but that does not mean that it’s fair.”

The rulings come after a three-year legal struggle, which Paul Rutherford said was ‘extremely stressful’ and the Carmichaels described as ‘sheer hell’.

Responding to the rulings, Labour’s shadow secretary for work and pensions, Debbie Abrahams, commented:

“I would like to pay tribute to all the families for their tireless work on bringing this issue to court. The true cruelty of the Tories bedroom tax has been exposed in today’s judgement.

“The bedroom tax is a cruel and unnecessary policy. It is widely despised by the British public, who see it for what it is; a callous attempt to punish low-income, social housing tenants.

“A Labour Government will scrap the disgraceful bedroom tax, ending the misery faced by thousands across the country.”

The claimants are represented by Central England Law Centre, Leigh Day and the Child Poverty Action Group.

See also: Tories under fire for ‘chilling callousness’ of new benefit cap

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