Potential human rights violation sees government face fresh bedroom tax legal challenge
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Universal Credit
The government is facing another legal challenge against its imminent bedroom tax policy.
Campaign group Liberty is seeking a Judicial Review of the under-occupancy charge based on the impact the new rules with have on separated families with shared custody of children.
The announcement comes days before the High Court is due to rule whether a challenge based on the effect the bedroom tax will have on disabled people should be allowed to proceed.
Liberty wants to challenge the lawfulness of the proposals on the grounds they are irrational and a violation of Articles 8 and/or 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to a private and family life and no discrimination.
The human rights group is representing three clients whose families will be adversely affected by the policy:
Simon Cohen from Gloucestershire, whose 12-year-old son lives with him four days a week in his two-bedroom house. Under the scheme his son will not be considered part of his household – his room will therefore be deemed “unoccupied”. Mr Cohen will see his housing benefit cut by 14 percent. He will either be forced to move into a one-bedroom property, where he cannot properly accommodate his son, or be placed in extreme hardship – possibly resulting in his inability to afford his rent.
Mark Hutchinson from Derbyshire, whose seven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old stepson reside with him at weekends and during school holidays. He will be considered to have two unoccupied rooms in his three-bedroom house and his housing benefit will be reduced by 25 percent. As Mr Hutchinson’s only income is Employment and Support Allowance of £71 a week, he will either be forced to move into a one-bedroom property, unsuitable for his children, or he will be unable to pay his rent and become homeless if evicted.
Kim Cotton, from Hampshire, whose 11-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son live with her every other week. Her housing benefit will also be cut by 14 percent. Again she will either be forced to move into a two-bedroom property, and be unable to provide proper accommodation for her children, or she will fall behind on her rent and become homeless if evicted.
Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for Liberty, said: “In no way can these loving parents be accused of ‘under-occupying’ their properties or having ‘spare bedrooms’ – these rooms are very much their children’s and home to many of their belongings.
"This bedroom tax could destroy thousands of similar arrangements for shared care of children, at enormous social cost. Why is a Government that prides itself on prioritising families penalising people merely for having children?”