HOUSING BENEFIT UNDER OCCUPANCY WIN!

HOUSING BENEFIT UNDER OCCUPANCY WIN

Blind tenant has ‘spare bedroom’ reclassified by the courts. Follow this link to see the ITV news video, or read the text below to find out more details:

http://www.itv.com/news/london/update/2013-09-23/residents-bedroom-tax-victory/

On 20 September 2013 Robinson Wilson Solicitors won a victory in the First Tier tribunal regarding the Housing Benefit under occupancy regulations, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’. By way of background, Westminster Council made a decision in  March 2013 that the appellant (represented by Robinson Wilson Solicitors) had one additional bedroom and therefore it must apply the statutory reduction in his housing benefit entitlement.

The appellant and Robinson Wilson Solicitors argued that the room  in question  was not a bedroom and had never been used as such, as it contains necessary equipment to help him with his disability. Further, that his home had been specially adapted for him to meet the needs of his disability.

 

Judge C Haley-Halinski allowed the appeal. In his decision he stated that the term bedroom is “nowhere defined and I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so described.”

Although decisions of the First Tier tribunal are only binding on the Secretary of State, in the absence  of a binding precedent this case should be considered favourably, as to our knowledge it is the  second case to succeed in challenging the term “bedroom”. The only other tribunal case on this point to succeed is SC108/13/01318 (held in first tier tribunal Kirkcaldy Scotland)

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Court ruling ‘gives green light to bedroom tax discrimination’

Campaigners are coming to terms with an “illogical” and “inconsistent” high court ruling, which appears to have given the government a green light to discriminate against disabled people who need extra bedrooms because of their impairments,

Although the court suggested that the government’s “bedroom tax” policy did discriminate against disabled people, the two judges also decided that that discrimination was justified under the Human Rights Act and was therefore lawful.

Lord Justice Laws said in the judgment that the government’s decision to provide some extra funding for discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – which help some people with some of the shortfall in their rent – and advice and guidance “cannot be said to be a disproportionate approach” to disabled people “who would or might face real difficulties” because of the new rules.

The court also ruled that Conservative work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith had fulfilled his public sector equality duty under the Equality Act because he had “properly considered” the effects of the housing benefit cap on disabled people.

This week’s judgment followed a three-day hearing in May into 10 claims brought by disabled people and their families against the housing benefit regulations, which came into force on 1 April and see tenants in social housing punished financially if they are assessed as “under-occupying” their homes.

But the judges’ ruling means the courts have now said that the regulations should not apply to disabled children who need their own bedrooms for impairment-related reasons, but should apply to disabled adults in similar situations.

All of the claimants are now set to contest this week’s judgment, but any appeal – assuming permission is granted – is unlikely to be heard before October at the earliest.

The judges ruled that it was impossible to identify the “precise” group of disabled people who need extra bedroom space because of their impairment.

But Anne McMurdie, of Public Law Solicitors, who are representing three of the claimants, said: “We disagree. We think it is very clear. We say there is a very specific class of people who need larger accommodation because of their disability, and that is really straightforward.”

And she said it was “very difficult to understand” how the judges could draw a distinction between disabled children who need extra space and disabled adults who need extra space.

She said: “It is definitely inconsistent and difficult to understand the logic as to why you would exempt one class and not the other.”

Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced an extra £35 million – mostly for DHPs – for councils to help “vulnerable tenants” affected by the new rules, it was unable to say whether this money would be repeated in future years.

A DWP spokeswoman said the amount of funding given to councils for DHPs every year was “decided annually”, and added: “The amount we will pay for next year has not been decided.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which “intervened” in the case, said it was “very disappointed” with the court’s decision.

A commission spokesman said: “A significant number of disabled people are affected by the proposed changes to housing benefit regulations and a higher proportion of these tenants are likely to be affected by the size criteria than non-disabled tenants.”

McMurdie said that all of the claimants were “in a dreadful situation” and “at risk of falling into debt”, with the extra money given to councils for DHPs “nowhere near enough” for all of the disabled people who need it.

She said: “People are not going to be able to make up that difference on an indefinite basis.”

by John Pring on the Disability News Service, 2nd August 2013. Read the full article here: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/08/court-ruling-gives-green-light-to-bedroom-tax-discrimination/?utm_content=buffer9a339&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

The Breath Taking Scale of the War on the Poor

the void

atos-bannerEver since David Cameron declared ‘we are all in it together’ him and his band of millionaires have waged all out war on the poor.

It is true that austerity may mean the future is starting to look quite different for some of the aspirational middle classes.  But that is nothing compared to the quiet demolition of the lives of those at the bottom of society.  In one of the richest countries in the world many people are now left with just a few pounds a week to survive after essential bills are paid.

Occasionally an event finds it’s way into the newspapers – such as the tragic suicide of Stephanie Bottrill who took her own life due to fears about the bedroom tax. More often though this silent holocaust goes unnoticed, even by those who are just a month’s pay packet away from falling prey to the onslaught, whilst…

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Unable to pay bedroom tax – then move. But…. we won’t let you!

“Unable to pay your Bedroom Tax? Move! But you’re in arrears because of the Bedroom Tax, so we’re not going to let you move.”
The government are idiots. (this is a comment to the following post on the facebook page Bedroom Tax…think its unfair…join the fight here)

“I was speaking to one of my neighbours today. She’s disabled and was awarded an adapted house, she’s been trying to move for 2 years because the house is now too big for just her and her husband but hasn’t had any luck. She’s been refused Discretionary Housing Payment, I don’t know why because she should qualify and she has only been able to afford to pay our Housing Association £11 a week. She’s on Homeswapper and has just found out that because she’s in rent arrears solely because of the bedroom tax, she’s had her Homeswapper account restricted, which means she can’t contact people to try to move!! She’s basically stuffed!!”

7th July 2013

Rent arrears soar in Birmingham as bedroom tax bites

Huge rise in social housing tenants struggling to pay their bills

The number of Birmingham social housing tenants in rent arrears has almost doubled following the introduction of bedroom tax.

Around 14,000 saw their housing benefit cut in April at a time when 2,816 were already behind with their rent.

That has soared to 5,390 in just three months – a 91 per cent rise.

The benefit cut came down on those who have spare bedrooms and is designed to encourage families to down-size, freeing up larger homes.

Birmingham’s Labour cabinet member, Coun John Cotton, said: “Sadly, the dire warnings about the impact of this reform are now coming to pass and, as expected, many of the most vulnerable people in Birmingham are struggling to pay the new charges. Once again the local authority is left to pick up the pieces.

“We are doing everything we can to provide a safety net, but the number of affected people in arrears has almost doubled in just three months. I can only see that situation getting worse.

“As we have consistently stressed, there is a shortage of one-bedroom properties in Birmingham and across the country, so people are now left in properties they can no longer afford.”

He said that each statistic represents a household in crisis.

Coun Cotton added: “We’re talking about families and individuals across Birmingham being driven to despair by a cruel charge that isn’t even doing what it set out to do.”

Households that have a spare room have seen an average £14 a week reduction in housing benefit.

Solihull grandmother Stephanie Bottrill, who walked into the path of a lorry on the M6, has become a focus for the anti-bedroom tax lobby. The mum-of-two and grandmother was told she would have to find £80 a month in rent because she lived alone in a three-bedroom house.

She left a note making it clear she could not go on after being forced from her home of 18 years by the ‘bedroom tax’.

The council has set up a £2 million discretionary payments fund to help those in difficulty. But it is feared demand could be too great as 2,000 people applied for help during the first two weeks of April alone.

July 3rd in the Birmingham Post, by Neil Elks. http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/incoming/birmingham-social-housing-rent-arrears-4811654

Leeds: 2,800 hit by bedroom tax

Growing numbers of council tenants are struggling to pay their bills following changes to the housing benefit system, city leaders have warned.

New figures from Leeds City Council show that 2,800 tenants receiving housing benefit who had clear rent accounts before the change, which came into effect in April, have now fallen behind on their payments. The Government changed the rules on housing benefit so that tenants judged to have one or more spare bedrooms lose some of their payments.

Ministers argue the move is needed to discourage people from staying in council or housing association properties with more room than they need.

But opponents argue there are not enough smaller properties for families who currently live in “under-occupied” homes.

Peter Gruen, council executive board member responsible for neighbourhoods, planning and support services, said: “The overall figures speak for themselves; over 50 per cent of tenants affected by under-occupation who had clear rent accounts before these changes were brought in are now falling into rent arrears after just seven weeks, and through no fault of their own.

“We predicted before the changes came into place that there would be increasing numbers of tenants going into rent arrears and the difficulty that councils will face.

“Since under-occupation was introduced, we as a council are having to collect an extra £78,500 each week from tenanted properties.”

Coun Gruen added: “We knew this was going to be a difficult time for people affected and, therefore, have already committed further resources to provide targeted support for tenants affected by the changes, and also ensure rent is collected for the benefit of all tenants.”

Just a few weeks into the current financial year, the council is already facing rent arrears of £138,000.

James reed in the Yorkshire Evening Post, 9/6/13.

Severely disabled woman charged bedroom tax on open plan living room

A quick question for anyone that can help regarding the bedroom tax and council tax. I dont know if its regional or how this is working but Cornwall Council have begun (last month) reducing council tax benefit and charging those on CTAX benefit the difference. Now, as expected people will have to pay the difference and depending on banding this obviously changes so its not the same for everyone, but, if you are being charged bedroom tax for an extra bedroom (or more) and also Council Tax for the same property that was being covered fully and no longer is, does that not mean you are paying Tax for the same room twice? This has just become the case for my Mother who has multiple disabilities, a carer and recently has had her bungalow adapted for her needs. Also the property has an OPEN PLAN front room/dining area with folding doors, the council say it is a 2 bedroomed property and not 1 bedroom with living room and dining room. Plus the actual bedroom is tiny as well. It all seems very unfair and that they have their facts wrong but when confronted with any questions about the classification of the property they give no answers and are very reluctant to listen let alone offer any help or advice. Thanks

from the facebook page The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos, 3rd June 2013