Benefit cap discriminated against disabled people, court rules

High court finds that two claimants caring for relatives for upwards of 35 hours a week were effectively in work and should be exempt from cap

The welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, unlawfully discriminated against disabled people by failing to exempt their carers from the benefit cap, a high court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Collins said the government’s decision to apply the cap to full-time carers for adult relatives had created serious financial hardship for them, forced many to give up caring for loved ones, and loaded extra costs on to the NHS and care services.

The benefit cap, which limits working-age unemployed people to £500 a week in benefits, was introduced by the government on the basis that it sent a strong message to so-called workless families that they had to try harder to get a job.

The court ruled that the two carers who brought the case – and who were caring for upwards of 35 hours a week – were effectively in work even though they were in receipt of benefits, and therefore should be exempt from the cap.

Collins said: “To describe a household where care was being provided for at least 35 hours a week as ‘workless’ was somewhat offensive. To care for a seriously disabled person is difficult and burdensome and could properly be regarded as work.” The court ruled that the government had breached article 14 of the European convention on human rights.

read more here:http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/26/iain-duncan-smith-unlawfully-dicriminated-against-the-disabled-rules-judge

Moston man in High Court battle with Tory minister over Bedroom Tax

Meryvn Drage will be taking the battle against the Bedroom Tax to the High Court in London in January. 
  His is one of ten judicial review claims that constitute a ‘class action’ against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions concerning impending changes to housing benefit. (The Bedroom Tax’ or Spare Room Subsidy.’)

 

  Last July a judge gave claimants leave to appeal the decision to the High Court. His reasoning was that ‘these cases raise issues of public importance’ for disbled people and children.’

 

  The outcome of this hearing will affect 500,000 people nationally.

 

  Read reports from MEN here and DPAC here

 

Tenant Meryvn Drage lives in Bradford Ct in Moston, North Manchester.
The Anti Bedroom Tax Federation Federation for Greater Manchester is supporting Meryvn in his case which is scheduled to be heard on 20th – 22nd January.

 

  The Secretary for State Work and Pension vs Meryvn Drage
Summary of skeleton argument to be put to the High Court. 

‘Claimant is a 56 year old sole tenant of a three bedroom flat initially allocated to him in 1994 when it was hard to let. He has a number of physical and mental health problems including depression, anxiety and OCD together with persecutory delusions from time to time. His condition is aggravated by stress and changes of routine and his disability means that it would be unresonable to move or share occupation of his flat.’

from ‘nobedroomtax’: http://nobedroomtax.co.uk/2-general/79-moston-man-in-high-court-battle-with-tory-minister-over-bedroom-tax

Disabled people win living fund case against government

Five disabled people have succeeded in a legal challenge to the government’s decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund.

 

The £320m ILF currently provides support enabling nearly 19,000 severely disabled people in the UK to live independent lives in the community. The High Court ruled in April that the closure decision was lawful, but this was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The government said it was considering whether to contest the judgement.

 

During the Court of Appeal hearing. the five disabled argued the High Court had gone wrong in law and there had been a lack of proper consultation by ministers over the changes. They said that, without ILF funding and support, they would be forced into residential care or lose their ability to participate in work and everyday activities on the same basis as able-bodied people.

The scheme’s average payout is £300 a week, and the government has said councils, which administer most social care, will take over funding this help. The Independent Living Fund is effectively ring-fenced money for disabled people with high support needs.

They feared that the decision to close the fund and devolve the money to local authorities would, in reality, lead to a reduction or loss of that money. The reason was that once it was devolved back to local authorities, it would cease to be ring-fenced. That would have meant, the campaigners say, it could be subject to normal constraints and cuts within a local authority budget.

The Court of Appeal unanimously quashed the decision to close the fund and devolve the money, on the basis that the minister had not specifically considered duties under the Equality Act, such as the need to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and, in particular, the need to encourage their participation in public life.

The court emphasised that these considerations were not optional in times of austerity.

This judgement is another example of judicial review in action. It is a process by which the decisions of public bodies can be scrutinised by the courts to ensure that they are lawful. In this case, the Equality Act creates a process that government must go through to ensure their decision affecting disabled people are lawful.

 

Ministers took the decision close the fund on 18 December last year.

 

Court of Appeal judges Lord Justice Elias, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice McCombe allowed the challenge to the High Court’s earlier ruling, quashing the original decision in favour of the government. Lord Justice McCombe said the evidence upon which the decision had been based had not given “an adequate flavour of the responses received indicating that independent living might well be put seriously in peril for a large number of people”.

 

The disabled applicants feared that the decision to close the fund and devolve the money to local authorities would lead to a reduction, or even loss, of that money, which had previously effectively been ring-fenced.

 

Welcoming the “powerful” ruling, law firms Deighton Pierce-Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, which represented the claimants, said their clients had “feared that the loss of their ILF support would threaten their right to live with dignity, and that they could be forced into residential care or lose their ability to work and participate in everyday activities on an equal footing with other people”.

 

The Court of Appeal decision was described as being “of major importance not just for the claimants, but for all disabled people”.

 

Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning said: “We are very pleased the Court of Appeal upheld how we undertook our consultation on the future of the fund, and they accepted that it had been carried out properly and fairly. We are disappointed with certain aspects of today’s decision, and we will be examining the judgement very carefully and considering the implications before deciding on the most appropriate way forward, which includes seeking leave to appeal.”

 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission was permitted by the court to intervene in the case and made submissions on the proper application of the Equality Act and UN Convention.

 

The ILF was established in 1988, but the government decided in 2010 that it had become “no longer appropriate or sustainable” to keep running the scheme outside the mainstream social care system. The fund closed to new applicants soon afterwards.

 

From the BBC News site, 6th Nov 2013: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24834558

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