A victim of domestic violence and the grandparents of a severely disabled teenager have won a Court of Appeal challenge over the lawfulness of the spare room subsidy.
The court heard that one plaintiff (only identified as ‘A’) was a victim of serious domestic violence. As a result of this, she had turned her spare room into a panic room.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) had ruled that ‘A’ was to lose £11.65 a week from her benefits. Her lawyers successfully argued she would have to leave facilities designed for her safety and wellbeing.
The second set of plaintiffs, Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford, give 24-hour care to their severely disabled grandson. They argued that they needed a spare room for overnight care and storing specialist equipment.
The court found the policy’s impact on disabled children was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The verdict unlawful discrimination against the government is unlikely to undermine the work of of Iain Duncan Smith, who in his 6 years as Secretary of State at DWP has introduced a number of controversial benefit reforms.
The spare room subsidy, dubbed “the bedroom tax” according to Labour, was introduced in 2013. It charges people receiving housing benefit for every spare room they have in their home, in the form of a benefit deduction.
The aim of the rule was to reduce the housing benefits bill and encourage people in social housing to move to smaller properties. The government has said, since its introduction it has saved £480m a year in housing benefit.
When asked specifically about the Court of Appeal decision, the Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons: “Our fundamental position is that it’s unfair to subsidise people in the social sector.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was given permission to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling at the Supreme Court.
Edited by Pete Adams.