Cruel, discriminatory, nefarious – yet the government won’t back down
THE hated bedroom tax is a cruel attack on some of the most vulnerable people in Britain, lawyers argued yesterday.
A panel of Supreme Court judges heard evidence against the Tories’ so-called “spare room subsidy” which inflicts hardship on disabled people, carers and domestic violence victims.
The tax is “nefarious,” barrister Richard Drabble told the packed courtroom on the last day of a three-day appeal hearing brought by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Docking housing benefit for each “extra bedroom” discriminates against these groups, would only cost social services more in the long run and would do nothing to tackle Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s claim that these tenants are “under-occupying” homes when their health and safety hinges on staying at their current homes, he added.
A widespread shortage of suitable council and housing association homes also prolongs the time it could take them to transfer, he continued, and lengthens the amount of time they remain in rent arrears.
Mr Duncan Smith is seeking to overturn a Court of Appeal verdict that declared the bedroom tax discriminatory.
Barrister Karon Monaghan slammed the tax as “gender discriminatory” in the case of an appellant referred to as A, who needs to stay in her three-bed specially adapted home because of a violent ex-partner who was in prison for attempted murder.It has security devices and a panic room in the loft and it would be “very unlikely” to find a similarly adapted property in the area, Ms Monaghan added.
Lady Hale said: “It is vanishingly unlikely that two domestic violence victims under the Sanctuary Scheme would live near each other and have suitably adapted homes that they could swap.”
Appeal judges had confirmed that Paul and Sue Rutherford, who look after their severely disabled 15-year-old grandson Warren full-time, “suffered discrimination” under the new rules.
Warren needs 24-hour care and is often assisted by an overnight carer. But rules exempting bedrooms used by overnight carers currently only apply to adults.
Discretionary housing payments that the Rutherfords receive from their local authority to make up the shortfall in housing benefit will run out in just weeks.
Spina bifida sufferer Jacqueline Carmichael and her husband and carer Jayson — who sleep in separate bedrooms as she uses a specially adapted bed — spoke of their “stress and heartache” before the three-day hearing.
Mr Carmichael also said that the couple hope the previous decision is upheld, adding: “We are having to think about it all the time and be depressed about it. It is fight after fight, case after case.”
Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith MP said the Tories were “rotten” for spending more than £250,000 in legal fees for the Supreme Court to defend their discrimination.
A DWP spokesman had said before the hearing: “Removing the spare room subsidy has restored fairness to the system for claimants as well as the taxpayer and the numbers subject to a reduction are falling.”
The seven judges said they expect to announce their decision “in due course.”