The High Court will next week consider 10 claims being brought against the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ that came into force on 1 April this year. The claims, made by a range of people affected by the Bedroom Tax, will be heard together over three days starting on Wednesday 15 May.
Law Firm Leigh Day are representing two clients who claim that the new housing benefit regulations discriminate against persons who require larger accommodation for reasons relating to their disability.
Jacqueline Carmichael and Richard Rourke are challenging Regulation B13 introduced into the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which will see a single person or a couple with no children having their housing benefit reduced by 14% where they occupy a two bedroom home and by 25% if they occupy a home with three or more bedrooms.
Jacqueline Carmichael lives with her husband in a two-bedroom housing association flat. She has spina bifida and is severely disabled. Mr Carmichael provides her with care throughout the day and night. Mrs Carmichael’s condition means that she has to sleep in a hospital bed with an electronic pressure mattress and has to sleep in a fixed position.
Mr Carmichael cannot sleep in this bed with her as it is not large enough for two people and his movements at night could cause her harm. There is not enough space in her bedroom for a second bed so Mr Carmichael sleeps in a second bedroom.
Since April 2013, Mr and Mrs Carmichael have had their housing benefit reduced by 14%. Mr and Mrs Carmichael have now been granted a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the shortfall in their rent; however this payment will only last 6 months; they do not know how they will meet their rent when the 6 month award period ends.
Mr Rourke is a widower. He is disabled and uses a wheelchair. He is a council tenant and lives in a three-bedroom bungalow. His stepdaughter is also disabled with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition that attacks the lungs, heart and muscles. She is currently a university student in her first year of a two-year web design degree. She lives in halls of residence during term time but returns home for the full summer vacation, at holiday periods and at weekends when she can.
Mr Rourke uses the third bedroom, which is a box room measuring 8 x 9 feet, to store his equipment including a hoist for lifting him, his power chair and his shower seat. Mr Rourke has enquired in the social rented sector about the availability of two bedroom properties, which are suitable for wheelchair use, and there are none. There are also no suitably adapted properties in the private sector.
Since April 2013, Mr Rourke has had his housing benefit reduced by 25%, on the basis that he is under-occupying by two bedrooms. Mr Rourke’s only income is from benefits; he cannot work and his day-to-day living costs are increased due to his disabilities; he has not been able to pay the shortfall in his rent of £25.38 per week. Mr Rourke made an application for Discretionary Housing Payment in March 2013 but it has not yet been decided. He is currently accruing rent arrears.
Ugo Hayter from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said: “We hope that the Court will rule that these Regulations are discriminatory in that they completely fail to make any provision for those who need larger accommodation as a result of their or their family members’ disability.
“We hope that the Government will be made to amend these Regulations and reverse the devastating consequences currently being experienced by thousands of people with disabilities around the country.”