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Government fails to prevent legal challenge to bedroom tax

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"From our solicitors:

The Government yesterday failed in its attempt to prevent legal action against its controversial Bedroom Tax, after permission was granted for a judicial review of the regulations to proceed in the High Court.

A judicial review of the Government’s controversial decision to deny housing benefit to people who have more than one bedroom if they are single or a couple will now be heard in early May.

Ugo Hayter from Leigh Day, who is representing a number of disabled clients challenging the legislation, said:

“This is an excellent result and the first step in over-ruling what we believe is an unfair piece of legislation which has disproportionate negative consequences for disabled people and is therefore discriminatory.

“We urge the Government to think again and not to punish the most vulnerable for what are negligible savings. The Court has ordered an urgent hearing at the beginning of May; we hope this will mean that the terrible anxiety our clients and many others are currently facing will be short-lived.”

Leigh Day are taking legal action on behalf of two disabled adults. They claim that new housing benefit regulations, due to come into force on 1 April 2013, are discriminatory, as they will have a far greater ‘devastating’ impact on disabled people than on non-disabled recipients of the benefit.

The law firm is challenging new regulation B13 introduced into the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which will see a single person or a couple with no children having their housing benefit reduced by 14% where they occupy a two bedroom home and by 25% if they occupy a home with three or more bedrooms.

Leigh Day are arguing this will have serious impacts on disabled housing benefit claimants, including their clients Jacqueline Carmichael, who lives with her husband in a two bedroom housing association flat, and Mr Rourke.

Mrs Carmichael has spina bifida and is severely disabled. Mr Carmichael provides her with care throughout the day and night. Mrs Carmichael’s condition means that she has to sleep in a hospital bed with an electronic pressure mattress and has to sleep in a fixed position.

Mr Carmichael cannot sleep in this bed with her as it is not large enough for two people and his movements at night could cause harm. There is not enough space in her bedroom for a second bed so Mr Carmichael sleeps in a second bedroom. Mr and Mrs Carmichael cannot afford to make up the 14% benefit reduction, which will be imposed from 1 April 2013.

Mr Rourke is a widower. He is disabled and uses a wheelchair. He is a council tenant and lives in a three-bedroom bungalow. His stepdaughter is also disabled with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition that attacks the lungs, heart and muscles.

She is currently a university student in her first year of a two-year web design degree. She lives in halls of residence during term time but returns home for the full summer vacation, at holiday periods and at weekends when she can.

The third ‘bedroom’, as defined by the Government, in Mr Rourke’s home is a box room measuring 8 x 9 feet which he requires to store his equipment including a hoist for lifting him, his power chair and his shower seat.

Mr Rourke has enquired in the social rented sector about the availability of two bedroom properties, which are suitable for wheelchair use, and there are none. Mr Rourke is also unable to afford to make up the 14% rent reduction, which will be imposed from 1 April 2013."

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