High Court to hear legal challenge to ‘bedroom tax’ for domestic violence victim

On Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 November 2014, the High Court will hear a judicial review challenge to the ‘bedroom tax’ and its impact upon women living in ‘Sanctuary Scheme’ homes.  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is defending the claim, having unsuccessfully argued at a hearing in June 2014 that it should be dismissed.

 

The claim is brought by a woman known only as ‘A’ because her identity must be protected for her own safety.  She is a victim of rape, assault, harassment and stalking at the hands of an ex-partner. She challenges the under-occupation provisions/ size criteria, colloquially known as the ‘bedroom tax’.  She claims that the housing benefit regulations which have introduced the scheme are discriminatory and will have devastating consequences for her and her 11-year-old son. 


 
Under the ‘bedroom tax’, A and her son are only entitled to receive housing benefit for a 2-bedroom property.  However they live in a 3-bedroom property which has been specially adapted for them by the police pursuant to a Sanctuary Scheme, because her life and physical safety are at risk from her ex-partner who has a history of serious violence. 

 

The Sanctuary Scheme aims to enable householders at risk of violence to remain safely in their own home by installing a ‘Sanctuary’ within the home and provide support to the household.  A has had a ‘panic space’ installed in her home, as well as a specialist ‘sanctuary system’.  This includes expensive reinforced doors, electric alarms, a marker on the house and alarms linked to the police station. 

A’s housing benefit has been reduced by 14% given the Secretary of State’s policy.   

 

A is represented by Doughty Street barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Katie O’Byrne, instructed by Rebekah Carrier at Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors.  

 

In the claim A argues that the Secretary of State has failed to take into account the disproportionate impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ upon victims of domestic violence, who are overwhelmingly women, and in particular those in Sanctuary Scheme homes, in breach of Article 14 ECHR.  They also argue that the Secretary of State has failed to comply with his Public Sector Equality Duty and that his reliance on local authorities providing Discretionary Housing Payments to affected people such as A is not an adequate safeguard to protect them.

 

Evidence in support of the claim has been provided by specialist charity Women’s Aid.

 

Further details are available in the attached press summary and from Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors.

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