Housing benefit rules breach disabled rights, says courtMake Text Bigger
The government’s housing benefits policy is in disarray as judges have ruled a crucial test to confirm how big a house a tenant qualifies to rent discriminates against the disabled.
The housing benefit regulations, which came into force in April 2012, were criticised as flawed in the Court of Appeal because they do not allow benefit payments for an extra room if a disabled person has a carer or a disabled child cannot share a room with other children.
Announcing the decision, Mr Justice Henderson said: “I am satisfied that maintenance of the single bedroom rules is not a fair or proportionate response to the discrimination which has been established in cases of the present type, and that the defence of justification therefore fails.”
The Court of Appeal as ruling on three cases sponsored by the charity Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) against three local councils and the Department of Work & pensions (DWP).
In two cases, the renters were disabled and needed round-the-clock help for carers who worked shifts in their homes.
In the other, the family had two disabled daughters who could not share a room because of the their conditions.
Alison Garnham, the CPAG chief executive, said: “We welcome the fact that the court has recognised the unfairness of the housing benefit rules. This is a tremendous victory for the rights of disabled people and their children.
“In this case it was clearly not possible for two children, one with Spina Bifida and another with Down Syndrome, to share a single bedroom with such different demands and needs. It’s absolutely right that the housing benefit system should respond to challenges like this, and it is clear discrimination if it does not.
“Disabled people and their families and carers are being assaulted by a series of unjust and arbitrary cuts. This ruling goes some way to mitigating the effects of the cuts, but children and adults are still being made the unfair target of the Coalition’s austerity agenda.”
The ruling means buy to let renters can apply for extra housing benefit if they can show they need an additional bedroom.
The government has already amended the rules for tenants with a live-in carer who has a home elsewhere.
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