Congratulations to Govan Law Centre in Glasgow who have successfully argued before a Tribunal in Scotland that the decision to reduce the housing Benefit of a severely disabled woman, breached her Human Rights.
The unnamed woman and her husband had their rent assistance reduced by 14% because they had too many rooms under the new rules that were introduced earlier this year. She needed a separate bedroom because of her disability. She needs a tracking hoist and the use of a hospital bed which makes it effectively impossible to share the room with her husband.
As result of the penalties that were imposed they went into rent arrears for 3 months.
The judge took the logical view that –
"As a result of her severe disability and the aids and adaptations she requires, the appellant cannot share a bedroom with her husband,"
This breached her human rights and also amounted to discrimination.
Hopefully this argument will now be used to assist other disabled people affected by this tax. Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. The intention of the bedroom tax is to force tenants to move into smaller accommodation which might be entirely inappropriate.
It is also quite clearly discriminatory as the only reason she needs the extra space is that she is disabled.
It remains to be seen whether the DWP will appeal.
A disabled person, and their carers, have enough on their plates without having to worry about losing their home. By any logic this is a tax on disability. It is only First Tier Tribunal Decision so does not create a precedent that others must follow. But it is a step in the right direction.
Of course what we really need is the abolition of this tax with is oppressive and does not acually work -
The case also highlights the importance of the work of Law Centres. I have mentioned recently that many are under threat following recent legal aid cuts –
The work that they do is essential in protecting the rights of ordinary people. They should be thanked and supported by anybody who is concerned about access to justice.