Bedroom tax judgments both a significant victory and disappointing defeat

Tue,8 November 2016
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Today’s Supreme Court judgments represent both a significant victory and a disappointing defeat.

Read a full summary of the judgments

Supreme Court rules Government acted unlawfully over ‘bedroom tax’- Leigh Day press release

Supreme Court decides legal challenge to ‘BEDROOM TAX’ by domestic violence victim - Hopkin Murray Beskine press release

The Supreme Court judges held that that Jacqueline Carmichael needed a separate bedroom from her husband due to her medical condition and that Paul and Susan Rutherford needed a spare room for their disabled son’s carer.

The ruling stated:

‘In respect of the application of the test, the Court of Appeal was correct that the secretary of state’s decision to structure the housing benefit cap scheme as he did was reasonable. However, some people with disabilities have a transparent medical need for an additional bedroom.’

Commenting on the judgments, Ken Butler, Welfare Rights Officer at Disability Rights UK said:

"Mr and Mrs Rutherford’s and Mrs Carmichael’s cases were successful as the Court held that there was a ‘transparent medical need’ for both to have an ‘extra bedroom’.

But in relation to the five other claimants the Court rejected their appeals on the grounds that their need for an ‘extra bedroom’ was not directly connected to their or their family member’s disability.

This issue of ‘transparent medical need’ will now be the litmus test as to whether a disabled person can successfully challenge the bedroom tax.

The DWP has rushed to issue new guidance to local authorities that they “must continue to apply the rules” when determining housing benefit claims as they did before today’s judgment and that the judgment does not require any LA to re -assess the HB of existing claimants.

This is nonsense – what local authorities should do instead is apply the judgment to new claimants and review all those who are already being penalised to determine if they have a ‘transparent medical need’ for an additional bedroom.

Those disabled people being affected by the bedroom tax, whose circumstances match the Rutherford and Carmichael cases, should now seek independent advice to see if they have a case to challenge its imposition.

Finally, it is disappointing that the Supreme Court has ruled that while the bedroom tax clearly discriminates against disabled people that it is ‘justified’ in law due to the existence of the discretionary housing payment scheme.

What disabled people need is the assurance of having their entitlement to full housing benefit enshrined in law.

They should not have the worry and stress of repeated applications for discretionary help that could be refused without the right to independent appeal.

Given the negative judgments issued today the case for the wholesale removal of bedroom tax legislation is even stronger.”

To get help with the issues covered in these cases see our factsheet F15 - find out where to get advice