The controversial 'bedroom tax' has been ruled unlawful and discriminatory by the Court of Appeal. Judges ruled on two cases brought by a domestic violence victim who has a panic room in her home, and the grandparents of a severely disabled teenager who needs overnight care.
Since 2013, people claiming housing benefit have had their properties assessed on the basis of how many rooms they need, resulting in benefit cuts for those who have 'spare' bedrooms. In both cases, the appeals had been allowed by The lord Chief justice, Lord Thomas, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Vos because the "admitted discrimination in each case caused by Regulation B13 has not been justified by the Secretary of State".
One of the cases, brought by Paul and Susan Rutherford from Pembrokeshire, concerned the care of their disabled grandson Warren, 15. The Rutherfords argued that the tax unlawfully discriminated against their grandson on the grounds of disability, given that provision was not made in the 2013 law for those in their position – that is, caring for someone who required round-the-clock care.
The couple, whose three-bedroom house was adapted for the needs of their grandson, rely on help from respite carers who stay overnight to look after Warren – in a room that has, since 2013, been deemed a 'spare' and therefore taxable, bedroom.
The domestic violence victim, known as A, had had her housing benefit cut by 14%, court documents stated, after it was deemed that she and her child were 'under-occupying' their property. But the spare room that the government deemed fit to tax her on was a panic room that had been installed in 2012 by Sanctuary Schemes, which adapts and secures the properties of domestic violence victims so they can remain in their own homes. She also appealed on discrimination grounds.
Owen Smith MP, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "Labour has long argued that the Bedroom Tax is deeply unfair and discriminatory, which is why we have campaigned so hard against it. Surely the time has now come for the Tories to discover a conscience, listen to the courts as well as the public, and scrap the hated Bedroom Tax."
In neither case was the claimant challenging the overall scheme, instead appealing their own reasons for exemption. A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We are pleased that the court found – once again – that we have complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty.
"We fundamentally disagree with the court's ruling on the ECHR, which directly contradicts the High Court. We have already been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
"We know there will be people who need extra support. That is why we are giving local authorities over £870m in extra funding over the next five years to help ensure people in difficult situations like these don't lose out."