Supreme Court Decision on the Bedroom Tax Challenges

R(on the application of Carmichael and Rourke) (Formerly known as MA and others)

R(Rutherford) –v- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

R(A) –v- Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Today the Supreme Court has announced its judgment to the bedroom tax challenges made against the government.  It has held that for those who do not have a particular medical need for an additional bedroom, that the provision of Discretionary Housing Payments (“DHP”) means that the discrimination is justified as its not manifestly unreasonable to deal with those claims on a case by case basis.

The bedroom tax provisions are contained under Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit 2006 (“Regulation B13”), which allows for housing benefit or credit to be deducted if the benefit claimant has one or more spare rooms in their property. Certain exemptions from the rules are already contained within Regulation B13 however today’s ruling widens those exempted to include all those with a direct medical need for an additional bedroom.

In its judgment the Supreme Court decided that a distinction can be drawn between those disabled individuals who have a particular medical need to have a separate bedroom and those who do not. Those who have been evaluated as having a direct medical need should be included within the category of persons exempt from the bedroom tax; whereas it is not manifestly unlawful to deal with those who do not have an identified medical need for a separate bedroom on a case by case basis and to provide funding via DHP where appropriate.

In terms of the arguments of A who was the victim of domestic violence and lived in a specially adapted property with a safe room under the Sanctuary Scheme; she had argued that Regulation B13 was discriminatory against women (women being disproportionately affected by domestic violence). The majority view of the Supreme Court (with 2 dissenting) was that it was not manifestly without reason for such claims to be considered for DHP on a case by case basis. A has indicated she will appeal the decision to the European Court on Human Rights.

For further information, please contact Anna Bennett. Anna is a Solicitor at Devonshires.

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