British domestic violence survivors hurt by bedroom tax


By Conrad Landin in Britain:

Thursday 20th November 2014

Tory policy targets victims of domestic violence

CRUEL ministers mounted a High Court defence yesterday to make a woman pay the bedroom tax for a panic room protecting her from a violent ex-partner.

Submissions to the court reveal that the woman, known as A, had been raped, assaulted and harassed by her former partner. He had also threatened to kill her.

But her legal team says Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is infringing both European and domestic law by refusing to exempt abuse survivors from the tax.

Sanctuary schemes provide a secure room or space with features such as reinforced doors and windows where survivors can retreat until help summoned by a panic button arrives.

The refusal of an exemption for sanctuary schemes is arguably discriminatory — because survivors of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women.

But A faces an extra bill of £11.65 a week for “under-occupying” her home.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a public law specialist barrister, said A, who lives with her 11-year-old son, was “acutely aware of the political sensitivity” of her legal challenge.

Rebekah Carrier, the solicitor acting for A, said: “These changes to housing benefit are having a catastrophic impact upon vulnerable people across the country.

“Our client’s life is at risk and she is terrified. She lives in a property which has been specially adapted by the police, at great expense, to protect her and her child. It is ridiculous that she is now being told she must move to another property (where she will not have any of these protections) or else take in a lodger.”

Labour’s Rachel Reeves blasted ministers ahead of the hearing.

“Today’s High Court hearing is another example why the cruel and unfair bedroom tax must be scrapped now,” she said.

“It’s appalling that the government are forcing the victims of domestic violence to pay the bedroom tax because they have ‘safe rooms’ in their homes.”

The hearing continues.

Further evidence of deaths due to UK welfare benefits sanctions: here.

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