Bedroom tax decision: So Cameron has committed contempt of Parliament too

bedroomtax

It was hardly the resounding victory on which the government must have been depending; faced with a ruling in favour of the DWP, the 10 families who brought a judicial review against the bedroom tax just said, “We will have to appeal.”

The High Court ruled yesterday that the change to housing benefit, subtracting amounts according to whether tenants had one or more ‘spare’ rooms according to arbitrary guidelines laid down by the DWP, do not breach the human rights of disabled people.

The families – all disabled or parents of disabled children – had challenged the changes, claiming violations of the Human Rights Act and the Equalities Act.

The DWP was quick to get a comment out to the press. Unfortunately for ministers, it was shrill in tone and undermined the department’s case.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are pleased to learn that the court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people. Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people’s extra bedrooms.”

(Let’s just pause to bear in mind that one of the architects of the bedroom tax is Lord Freud, whose eight-bedroom mansion is indeed funded by the taxpayer. How many extra bedrooms is that?)

“But we have ensured extra discretionary housing support is in place to help those who need it and today we have announced a further £35m of funding to councils to aid residents.”

That’s right, there is a discretionary fund that councils can use to help social housing tenants. At £150 million, it is considered woefully inadequate for the task.

The fact that the DWP announced a further £35 million for this purpose indicates that the government thinks so, too. So, despite insisting that they are fulfilling their duties, ministers under Iain Duncan Smith are also admitting that they aren’t.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the families who launched the legal challenge released comments of their own, in which they made it perfectly clear that they were not going to go down without a fight.

A statement from Leigh Day, one of the three law firms representing the claimants, said: “The Court found that the Secretary of State has been aware that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children since May 2012, and they were highly critical of his failure to make regulations to provide for them. Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs ‘cannot be allowed to continue’.

“The Government must now make regulations ‘very speedily’ to show that there should be ‘no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities’.”

This means Iain Duncan Smith has known for more than a year that the bedroom tax would discriminate against disabled children, and has done nothing about it. One can only wonder which of his beliefs justified this cruelty.

The Leigh Day statement continued: “The court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified. Lawyers for adults with disabilities today said that they believe this cannot be right. They should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need.

“Lawyers for adults with disabilities… confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.

“Disabled children and their families also intend to appeal as they are now left in a position where they do not know whether in fact they are entitled to full housing benefit to meet the costs of the homes that they need. This is because the Government has declined to confirm that the new regulations, which the court says must be made, will cover their situations, or to provide a date by which the new regulations will be made.

“Since the new housing legislation was introduced it has had a devastating effect on many people across the country. Charities, social landlords and advice agencies have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day added: “We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal. Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation, which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”

Two other law firms are representing the claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine and Public Law Solicitors.

Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine said: “The Government’s position in relation to disabled children is incomprehensible. In May 2012, the Court of Appeal held that the Secretary of State was discriminating against disabled children who need to share a bedroom because of their disabilities, yet by February 2013, when these proceedings were issued, no action had been taken.

The Prime Minister then told the House of Commons in March that disabled children were exempt, when this was plainly not the case. When he was questioned, the Government rushed out a circular to local authorities, which suggested that the rule may not apply to some disabled children; yet the Government continued to fight this case.

“It is no wonder local authorities and affected children and families are confused.”

She said: “We are pleased that the court has recognised that the current situation is not acceptable and that the Government must act quickly. We are disappointed however that the Government has delayed for so long already and is still foot-dragging.

“Until it is absolutely clear that these claimant families and others like them will not have their benefit cut on the basis that they live or hope to live in homes which meet their children’s needs, these claimants, like the disabled adults, have no choice but to appeal.”

Emma Burgess from Public Law Solicitors said: “The Government has failed to recognise that many people with disabilities will not be able to make up the shortfall in rent by working or taking in a lodger; and many will not be able to move due to the nature of their disabilities. The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme ‘safety-net’ relied on by the government is inadequate to plug the gap.

“A July survey by the Papworth Trust, backed by the National Housing Federation , said nine out of 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills to pay the bedroom tax if they are refused a safety-net housing payment.

Left unchanged these measures will see disabled people facing eviction and homelessness.”

So yet again we have a Secretary of State who knew there was an urgent need for action to rectify his flawed policies but – as in so many other cases we have witnessed – did nothing.

And our sorry excuse for a Prime Minister actually lied to Parliament about the threat to disabled children – let’s say that again, to DISABLED CHILDREN!

This blog has already called for Iain Duncan Smith to be thrown out of Parliament for the contempt he has shown that institution by knowingly telling falsehoods to its members. It therefore follows that David Cameron should suffer the same fate.

The longer they remain in office, the more we may conclude corruption has set into the highest level of government.

And there is no way they can argue that the relevant legislation was only recently found to be inadequate. Look at this comment from Esther McVey, Tory minister for disabled people, in The Telegraph: “This has gone through a lot of reviews, it has gone through a lot of decision-making and it’s taken a long period of time.” So there is no excuse for the dog’s breakfast that the High Court upheld with yesterday’s decision.

Fortunately, there are developments among the Opposition that will hearten anyone fighting the bedroom tax.

In a letter to constituency Labour organisations, Peter Wheeler, a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee has stated: “To win the election it is vital that we are very clear with the electorate that a Labour Government will offer real hope to people suffering under this government.

“One of the key issues will be the bedroom tax. We need to be very clear that a Labour Government will abolish this wicked piece of Tory legislation.” He went on to call for constituencies to demand that this will be a part of the Labour election manifesto in 2015.

Oh – one more thing: The Tories are still referring to the bedroom tax in terms of removing a ‘spare room subsidy’. Let’s just remind them that there is no such thing. If there was, then they should be able to tell us when this amount was added to housing benefit payments and what piece of legislation made it possible. Was it an Act of Parliament? I’m sure we’d all like to know.

(The first collection of Vox Political articles, Strong Words and Hard Times, is available now in paperback or as an eBook, containing the best articles from 2012, fully supported with a large ‘footnotes’ section in which you can actually connect to internet links, if you’re reading on a device that supports this kind of activity.)

34 thoughts on “Bedroom tax decision: So Cameron has committed contempt of Parliament too

  1. Pingback: Bedroom tax decision: So Cameron has committed ...

  2. Alex Casale

    Upon this battle depends the survival of the disabled. Upon it depends our own British way of life and the long continuity of our institutions. The whole fury and might of the enemy is turned on us now. Cameron knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all of us may be free. But if we fail, then Britain, including all that we care for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, when we can halt the ‘final solution’ of genocide by this government, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’
    Apologies for using Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech to get my feelings across.

  3. Juli

    Excellent, as ever, Mike. Thank you. My contempt for this Coalition grows to boiling point!
    I just wanted to add that I can’t fathom, apart from its unnecessarily literal and most convenient interpretation of the law, why the HC made the bizarre distinction between children and adults in this context – unless it MEANT to be a proxy for No 10, of course. What, I wonder, do the court and our Dear Leaders think is supposed to happen to these children once they become adults? Do they not know that children grow up…?

  4. Sasson Hann

    It bears repeating, but the condemns would have avoided all of this if they had just thought all of this through.

    # They should have stuck to their initial statements regarding this tax; in the autumn of 2010 Grant Shapps said that this charge would only apply to new tenants.

    # Prior to that however, they should have announced a social housing building programme to provide smaller properties for the prospective new tenants affected by this law.

    # Common sense should have prevailed with regard to new tenants where these households contained disabled adults and children so that they would be entitled to larger properties according to their needs (it’s been overlooked that new disabled tenants under the current system will also need larger properties).

    I am disabled and badly affected by this especially as I have high care fees to pay as well which has resulted in me losing half of my disability benefits. We forget that many able bodied people are also affected who don’t have the extra benefit income available to pay this charge. Had the 3 points above been implemented, it would have protected both able bodied and disabled people.

  5. guy fawkes

    Is it possible to take this government to court for giving millionaires tax break? there should be a law against that, especially as they are asking the most vulnerable with extra bedrooms to pay up or move, even though there are no one bedroom places to move to and they are woefully inadequate space wise even if there were.

  6. Debbie Price

    What about what Cameron said on July 10th at Prime Ministers Questions?
    “Anyone who needs to have a carer sleeping in another bedroom is exempt from the spare room subsidy”
    Surely, we can use that to our advantage?
    Parents of Disabled children who need a respite carer.
    Couples who cannot share a room due to Disabilities.

    1. Liz.

      That sounds good – but I think it only applies if the carer doesn’t already LIVE there. Part of the problem is that the Government can make this sound reasonable to people who have no idea of the reality and hardships of disabled people and their carers.

      1. Jonathan Wilson

        True, also when they say “Exempt” what they really mean is “prioritized DHP payment” so not exempt, just they get first pick of the DHP which means someone else looses it… hardly “discretionary” by any contrivance of the word.

  7. Nick

    this government is the lowest of the low to actually come up with the idea of the bedroom tax in the first place was a very wicked thing to have done just getting it into your mind in the first place would have been only for a psychopath to come up with as no normal person would have ever dreamt of this in the first place

    1. guy fawkes

      Then we have the likes of Esther mc vey justifying the government stance saying there are people on the waiting list for housing with disabled children or overcrowded, BUILD SOME MORE HOUSES THEN AND NOT SHOE BOXES!

      1. Jonathan Wilson

        While it may be true re:waiting list and over crowded… I wonder how the figures would change if they used the BT criteria? I.e. 2 kids over ten in a “single” bedroom = overcrowded but correctly occupied if both are boys under the BT even though technically still over crowded as per the housing act.

        I also wonder how many of the people on the waiting lists will never be housed due to the fact there are not enough one and two bed houses as to put them into a 3 or larger bedroomed house would immediately see them subject to the bedroom tax.

        The arbitrary and idealistic nature of the BT and its deliberate ignorance of the housing act means that a family of say 5 could be over crowded in a two bed house and not given a house with 3 bedrooms (all the children are boys over 10 under 16) because to do so would break the law, yet to give them a 4 bedroom house would see them under occupying by 1 bedroom and subject to the BT despite being legally housed in the correct property for the size of the family.

  8. Penny Ledger

    Discretionary payments are being refused by some local authorities which
    take DLA into account when assessing income. Local authorities are also including DLA in calculations of charges for services.

  9. denise clendinning

    Labour have to mean what they say and the bedroom tax must go and yes they are taking DLA into consideration. This is not the way it is meant to work . That money is for personal care only and their taking carer,s allowance as well in to consideration the money that we fight to be awarded is in affect given back to the government. This is outrageous.

  10. skwalker1964

    Reblogged this on The SKWAWKBOX Blog and commented:
    “The fact that the DWP announced a further £35 million for this purpose indicates that the government thinks so, too. So, despite insisting that they are fulfilling their duties, ministers under Iain Duncan Smith are also admitting that they aren’t.” Can anyone really doubt that this government hates disabled people no matter how much they claim otherwise? Good luck to the plantiffs with their appeal!

    1. Mike Sivier

      Kneejerk reaction is that this is what the Tories always try to do. Look at the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – putting the onus on local council to decide how much Council Tax people will have to pay from now on – or David Cameron’s repeated claims that the Labour Assembly Governent is starving the Welsh NHS, when in fact it is lack of funds from Westminster that is doing the damage.

    2. guy fawkes

      Paurina

      I was told it was housing associations that can reclassify bedrooms as offices etc, but they won’t, they have gone along with everything this government has wanted and any withdrawals of housing benefit have to be made up by the tenant, even though most housing associations are classified as charities so that THEY can get the peppercorn rents for their vast premises while making tenants of their properties pay the bedroom tax.
      Let housing association staff do some fundraising for their charity and pay the bedroom tax for it’s tenants.

      1. Nick

        housing associations like i belong to are NOT CHARITIES and never have been that is just a myth

        they are big business and like all charities the board of directors are all well off living the high life and doing none of the work so my daughter tells me who is not that impressed with her internship

        A bit of a eye opener she tells me so she wont be doing any further work for any charity

      2. guy fawkes

        Nick

        Our organisation is both a non-profit making organisation who has amalgamated with other housing associations in surrounding areas and also has charitable status with 7,000 homes on it’s books.

      3. Nick

        Guy I’m well retired from the the inner sanctions of the establishment and have been involved with most charities throughout my life in one way or the other

        I have yet to meet anyone of them as being a credit be it save the children or moat housing like i belong to

        if all charities are as daft as what i know of them then heaven help the people who need help

        no matter where you go in the world you always see their failure a bit here a bit there nothing solid nothing on a firm foundation piecemeal all round if your lucky a water tap near by and that’s about it

        adverts on the telly day in day out needing the public help

        my personal preference is one on one sponsorship and a friend for life and i think if we moved in that direction as whole things would be a lot clearer all round

        i have always had to ask for charitable help for people that have lived close to me over the years for a number of severe problems and never once has any charity stepped forward not even in the royal household no one

  11. Samwise Gamgee

    The return of the workhouse?

    http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/report-calls-for-expansion-of-residential-workfare-for-unemployed-and-disabled-people/

    Maybe nothing quite so drastic, but it shows the direction of travel within parts of the DWP. Download and read the actual report into what is called “Residential Training Provision” via this link:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/225491/residential-training-provision-independent-report.pdf

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  13. Marian Standen

    the bedroom tax is rediculess, if you have spare bedrooms you have to pay 14% – 25% towards your rent as this amount is deducted from your housing benefit . You live in a 3 bed the rent is £75pw so only £55 HB paid. You move to a one bed, the rent is £95pw full HB paid. Am I thick when I think this doesnt make sense

  14. Christine Cassidy

    What about ALL the spare bedrooms in these mansion that MP’s have that they cannot be using 365 days of the year, after all they have their first home with the many extra bedrooms they DO NOT need.

  15. Carmen Hayne

    I think the European Courts of Human Rights would’ve found in favour of the victims of bedroom tax, In what way shape or form is Discrimination lawful? We are being treated like we are able bodied and that is a criminal offence. I so wish I could sue the Government! If this appeal falls through, I will as a group take it to the European Courts of Human Rights. But I know Cameron is trying to shut the door on our freedom of rights! Then this country will be under dictatorship and Tyranny with no rights or laws to protect us! There are several Human rights laws being broken and this government seem to be getting away with it. The Judges decision was political, so are you buddies with Cameron? It certainly wasn’t lawful! It just makes a mockery of the law! The law is there to protect us or so we thought. Certainly not the case here!

  16. Pingback: No protection from Bedroom Tax for the vulnerable as it would cause ‘political embarrassment’ | Vox Political

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