Supreme Court decides ‘Bedroom Tax’ Appeals


Today, a seven-Judge Supreme Court has handed down judgment in seven appeals concerning the cap on housing benefit introduced by the Secretary of State under Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2013), often described as “the size criteria,” “the removal of the spare room subsidy” or “the bedroom tax”.  The size criteria permit housing benefit claimants a fixed number of bedrooms, based upon the number of occupants of a household, their ages and sexes and whether any of them are a couple.  There are certain specific instances where an exemption has been made to B13’s general rule.  In other cases, individuals whose needs are not met by housing benefit may apply to their local authority for Discretionary Housing Payments to make up the shortfall, where they are available.


There were seven appeals heard together, which all concerned alleged discrimination under Regulation B13. 


Six of the appeals concerned alleged disability discrimination: the Carmichael, Daly, Drage, JD, Rourke and Rutherford cases.  The Supreme Court has unanimously found that, in the case of Jacqueline Carmichael and the Rutherford family, the Secretary of State has breached Article 14 ECHR by failing to make an exemption to the general rule for their specific medical need for an extra bedroom.  This was, the Court has found, unlawful disability discrimination.  However, in the other disability cases the Supreme Court has unanimously found that no exemption is required, and their cases should fall to be considered individually under the Discretionary Housing Payments system.


The final appeal concerned gender discrimination. ‘A’ is a victim of rape, assault, harassment and stalking at the hands of an ex-partner.  She lives in a three-bedroom property with her son, which has been specially adapted for them by police under a Sanctuary Scheme home, to protect them from an ongoing risk of serious violence.  She is one of at least 281 Sanctuary Scheme users across the country who are affected by the size criteria.  The Supreme Court was divided in her case.  All seven Judges have found that a vulnerable domestic violence victim must receive the protection of ‘Sanctuary Scheme’ accommodation for as long as she needs it, notwithstanding the operation of the size criteria.  However, a majority of the Court failed to require the Government to create a formal exemption from the size criteria for those who live in Sanctuary Schemes.  Lady Hale and Lord Carnwath dissented and found that the failure to create a formal exemption was unlawful. 


The Supreme Court’s judgment is available here


Coverage of the ruling is available from the Guardian.


A’s solicitor has issued a press release, which is available here.


A joint press release by Leigh Day, CPAG and the Central England Law Centre, concerning all of the disability cases, is available here.

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