The spare room subsidy, or "bedoom tax", imposed by the Department of Work & Pensions has been declared discriminatory by the Court of Appeal in London.
Three judges today allowed an appeal by a domestic violence victim placed in a local authority "safe house", and the family of a disabled teenager who needed overnight care, who argued that the reduction in housing benefit for social housing tenants with a "spare" bedroom did not take account of their respective situations. Lord Thomas, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Vos, agreed that the admitted discriminatory effects of the policy in the cases before them had not been justified by the UK Government.
The abused woman, known as "A", had been given a home equipped with a panic room under a "sanctuary scheme" for women whose lives were judged to be at risk. Her case was supported by the Equality & Human Rights Commission, whose chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath commented:
“Sanctuary schemes provide an important service in placing victims of domestic violence in local authority safe houses. We are pleased that the court has found that the impact of the spare room subsidy on those housed under sanctuary schemes had not been properly considered, is discriminatory and is unjustified.
“Victims of serious domestic violence who are reliant on full housing benefit are in an extremely vulnerable situation and their life can be under threat. Their protection is paramount.
“The new regulations reduced housing benefits for those within the sanctuary scheme because their accommodation was a safe house and therefore larger than usual. This could result in an inability to pay the rent and therefore eviction. The effect for a victim of domestic violence of losing a secure home is profound and could be extremely dangerous.”
Paul and Susan Rutherford and their 15-year-old grandson Warren brought the second case, over the impact of the policy on disabled children. The room deemed to be affected by the subsidy rule was used for overnight carers and for storing special equipment. The regulations allow for an additional bedroom if the claimant or their partner requires overnight care, but make no provision for children.
The Government was given permission to appeal and has said it will challenge the decision.