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Supreme Court paves way for ‘bedroom tax’ appeal

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Supreme Court paves way for ‘bedroom tax’ appeal

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Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Local Government, Universal Credit

Supreme Court paves way for ‘bedroom tax’ appeal Supreme Court paves way for ‘bedroom tax’ appeal

The Supreme Court has granted the Government permission to challenge a ruling which held that the housing benefit regulations discriminate against disabled people - a move which could have implications for the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ set to hit social tenants from next April.

In a unanimous ruling back in May this year, the Court of Appeal (COA) held that the size criteria in the current housing benefit regulations (currently only applying to claimants living in private rented housing) discriminate against disabled people by not allowing an additional room where the disabled person has a carer or where two children cannot share a room because of disability.

Independently of the court case, the Government has amended the rules to recognise that some people need an additional room for an overnight carer who lives elsewhere. Those changes came into effect in April 2011.

However, as a result of the COA decision it faced pressure to amend the regulations for disabled children – allowing a family to claim housing benefit for an extra room when two children cannot share because of disability.

At the time of the COA decision, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it would consider its response to the judgment.

Now the department has confirmed it has been granted permission by the Supreme Court to challenge the judgement with timescales unclear - although it's unlikely to happen before next April.

As a result of the case in May, the DWP produced a circular to local authorities stating that those whose children are said to be unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities will be able to claim housing benefit for an extra room from the date of the judgment, 15 May 2012.

The circular says: "However it will remain for local authorities to assess the individual circumstances of the claimant and their family and decide whether their disabilities are genuinely such that it is inappropriate for the children to be expected to share a room. This will involve considering not only the nature and severity of the disability but also the nature and frequency of care required during the night, and the extent and regularity of the disturbance to the sleep of the child who would normally be required to share the bedroom. This will come down to a matter of judgment on the facts."

Under current plans around 660,000 social tenants face losing an average of £14 a week from next April as a result of the new under-occupation rules - which will cut a tenant's housing benefit if they have spare bedrooms.

According to the Government’s impact analysis, the proportion of disabled claimants affected by the measure is significantly higher than for non-disabled claimants with 420,000 disabled people impacted.

Under the rules, one bedroom will be allowed for each person or couple living as part of the household. Children aged 15 or under of the same gender will have to share, while those nine or under will also be forced to share regardless of gender.

As a result of amendments to the regulations last year, a bedroom will be allowed for a non-resident carer where they provide overnight care for the claimant or their partner.

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