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Bedroom tax High Court challenge starts today

Wednesday 14th May 2014

A family begin their challenge to the bedroom tax at the High Court today. If successful, it could mean that bedroom tax rules are changed so that families with a disabled child who need an extra room for an overnight carer are exempt.

The family from Pembrokeshire in Wales, need an overnight carer to help look after their 13 year old disabled grandson.

While the current rules allow for an extra bedroom for an overnight carer if needed by an adult, it does not allow for an extra room if an overnight carer looks after a disabled child. As a result, the family argue that this rule unlawfully discriminates against disabled children who need overnight care.

Since the bedroom tax was introduced in April 2013 the government has made concessions for some disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom with a brother or sister because of their disabilities. However, families who need an extra room for equipment for their disabled child or for an overnight care worker for example, remain unprotected from the bedroom tax rules.

This means they are still expected to cover any shortfall in housing benefit. A family seen to under-occupy by one bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent and if a family is seen to under occupy by two or more bedrooms the cut will be 25 per cent.

Una Summerson, Head of Policy at Contact a Family says: "We know from calls to our helpline that this is not an isolated case. Some children have high care needs through the night and an overnight carer enables their parents to get a vital night's sleep. Without the help of overnight care workers some families would reach breaking point and may consider residential care, at a substantial extra cost to taxpayers. This rule is seriously flawed and we hope that the family are successful in their court battle." 

Contact a Family is campaigning to ensure all disabled children are exempt from unfair bedroom tax rules.

Una Summerson added: "Many families have seen a reduction in their housing benefit since the bedroom tax was introduced last year. 'Spare' rooms are anything but for families with disabled children - they are often essential in caring for a disabled child. As well as families needing a room for overnight carers, extra rooms are important spaces to store lifesaving equipment or vital supplies which are delivered in bulk, or as a safe or quiet room for children."

Families who are having their housing benefit reduced and who have an extra bedroom for an overnight carer for their child should get advice about lodging an appeal pending an outcome of today's court case. This applies not only to those tenants in social housing affected by the bedroom tax but also to private tenants whose housing benefit is being capped under local housing allowance rules.

For advice on bedroom tax or any other benefits enquiries call our freephone helpline Monday-Friday, or post a query on Facebook or Twitter and one of our advisers will get back to you.

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