By Lamiat Sabin in Britain:
Bedroom Tax Victims Win Court Battle
Thursday 28th January 2016
Judges rule vicious tax is ‘discriminatory’ but Tories vow to appeal
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has not “justified” cutting the social tenants’ housing benefit by at least 14 per cent for being deemed to have “an extra bedroom,” the three Court of Appeal judges said.
A woman referred to as “A,” who lives in a council house adapted to contain a panic room to protect her from a violent ex-partner, and Paul and Sue Rutherford, who look after 15-year-old Warren, had “suffered discrimination” as a result of the vicious tax, the judges added.
Both bedroom tax cases were contrary to the Article 14 “anti-discrimination” clause in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on the grounds of sex and disability, Lord Chief Justice John Thomas, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Vos ruled.
This is because the bedroom tax regulations say that an “additional bedroom would be allowed for defined classes of persons,” which “A” and the Rutherfords launched a judicial review into, to argue that this category should include them.
“A” faced losing £11.65 a week from her housing benefit despite needing the panic room — considered by authorities to be “a spare room” — after having been raped, assaulted and threatened with death by her ex-partner.
The DWP argued that her challenge lacked credibility because discretionary housing payments (DHPs) were available through local councils in exceptional circumstances.
Warren — who has a rare genetic disorder that means he is doubly incontinent and unable to walk, talk or feed himself — is cared for by his grandparents in a three-bedroom bungalow adapted for his needs.
The Rutherfords’ third bedroom is for carers who stay overnight and to store medical equipment, but the regulations had stated that the allowance only includes a claimant or their spouse and not a child.
The judges allowed the appeals in both cases on the ground that the “admitted discrimination in each case” had “not been justified by the Secretary of State.”
Mr Rutherford, from Pembrokeshire, said: “I’m a bit lost for words.
“I could almost cry with happiness. Other people are going to benefit from this decision as well. That was partly why we did it.”
The government — which will lodge a Supreme Court appeal against the decision — rejects the term “bedroom tax” and says the tax removes the so-called “spare room subsidy” to encourage social tenants to downsize and free up bigger homes.
PM David Cameron said he would study the judges’ decision after Labour called for the abolition of the punitive bedroom tax in force since April 2013.
During Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Cameron claimed that “it’s unfair to subsidise spare rooms in the social sector if you don’t subsidise them in the private sector.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Mr Cameron to “finally abandon this cruel and unjust policy.”
Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: “This victory in the Court of Appeal is a massive blow to the Tories’ bedroom tax.
“Surely the time has now come for the Tories to discover a conscience, listen to the courts as well as the public, and scrap the hated bedroom tax.”
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Bed tax is an iniquitous tax
Thursday 28th January 2016
THE appeal court ruling that the application of the bedroom tax to a woman who has suffered domestic abuse and the grandparents of a severely disabled child was illegal is obviously to be welcomed.
But it should not be necessary.
The fact that these cases even exist shows, as A’s solicitor has said, the “catastrophic effect” that this punitive and pernicious policy has had on vulnerable people across the country.
It should be unthinkable that the state should punish a vulnerable single parent because the police had to specially adapt her home to protect her from a violent ex-partner. That protecting her life and that of her child should be considered “under-occupying” her home.
Or that grandparents of a child who is unable to walk, talk or feed himself should be punished because of the support they require in order to care for him.
These cases are undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg and their obvious iniquity rests on a deeper inequality — the entire concept of “under-occupancy” applied to one section of society.
There is no limit on the richest in our society having as many rooms, or indeed houses, as they like.
However, working people in receipt of benefits, many of whom have been forced into poverty by long-term underinvestment in the economy and this government’s austerity agenda, are painted as a drain on society.
This reflects the government’s wider priorities.
At the same time as imposing this cruel tax on the most vulnerable, David Cameron is cutting the public services that we all rely on.
In his own county council, cuts to local government funding are forcing the closure of all 44 children’s centres, including the support they provide for victims of domestic abuse and disabled children and adults.
The ideology of austerity that is used to justify these cuts is blatantly false.
Take the case of Google’s tax bill. While our services are systematically destroyed by underfunding and closure on economic grounds, a multimillion-pound business can pay just 3 per cent tax on over £6 billion profits made in the UK.
The issue here is not the legality or otherwise of the bedroom tax, nor whether or not the backroom deal with Google fulfils its legal tax responsibilities. It is about the kind of society we want to live in.
This government has proved again and again that its primary responsibility is to maintain the profits of big business through a massive transfer of wealth from working people.
This battle will not be fought in the courts, though any victories are welcome. It will be fought on the streets, at the ballot box and in our communities and workplaces.
We must dedicate ourselves to building a movement which brings together all those opposed to the bedroom tax, to the scandalous extortion of private rental, to the closure of children’s centres and the destruction of the NHS.
We must build alliances between those fighting the Trade Union Bill and those fighting workfare and welfare cuts.
The shift to the left in the Labour Party provides us with a historic opportunity to build such a movement and to mobilise whole communities to reject the government’s austerity agenda and the underlying narrative of neoliberalism.
We must seize the moment and build working-class solidarity which is strong enough not only to withstand the Tories’ assault but to push back and create the kind of society we want to live in.
Iain Duncan Smith accused of writing ‘blank cheque’ to lawyers to defend bedroom tax in court: here.
THE GOVERNMENT is set to blow taxpayers’ cash on a costly legal challenge to Wednesday’s landmark court ruling that the bedroom tax is discriminatory and illegal. Court of Appeal judges found that the notorious policy “discriminated” against a domestic violence survivor and the family of a severely disabled teenager: here.
RUTH HUNT speaks to three sanctions survivors who, thanks to Iain Duncan Smith’s merciless regime, were left for weeks with as little as £5 to get by on: here.