Bedroom tax: Scottish MPS condemn disabled ruling

Margaret Burgess: Disappointed by yesterday's High Court ruling. Picture: Contributed
Margaret Burgess: Disappointed by yesterday's High Court ruling. Picture: Contributed
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A HIGH Court ruling which clears the way for the so-called “bedroom tax” to be imposed on disabled people has been condemned by the Scottish Government.

Housing minister Margaret Burgess is now demanding that Scotland gets a fair share of a new £35 million funding pot set aside for those hardest hit after yesterday’s court judgment.

Charities say thousands of the most vulnerable in society could be made homeless, or have to go without food or heating to continue living in their homes.

More than 65,000 households in Scotland with an adult with a disability will be affected – and an estimated 15,500 are families with children.

The bedroom tax is a cap on housing benefits introduced in April and aimed at tenants deemed to be living in social housing with extra bedrooms, which will see payments cut by up to 25 per cent.

Yesterday, two judges at London’s High Court ruled that applying the cap to the disabled was based on “a reasonable foundation” and lawful.

Ms Burgess, who met UK welfare reform minister Lord Freud yesterday, said afterwards: “I am disappointed by today’s ruling.

“The bedroom tax will hit the poorest hardest and it is wrong that it applies to people in crisis such as those in temporary accommodation and some supported accommodation.

“Scotland is disproportionately disadvantaged because much of Scotland’s temporary accommodation is affected by the bedroom tax, unlike in England. The majority of our temporary accommodation is local authority owned, which is not the case in England.”

She added: “I met with Lord Freud this afternoon and made it clear to him that Scotland expects a fair share of the additional £35m the UK government will allocate to make discretionary payments to those affected by the changes to housing benefit.”

The bedroom tax is expected to save £500m annually and is part and parcel of the government’s deficit-reduction strategy.

The judges rejected arguments that the cap discriminated against the disabled because their spare rooms are often needed to store special equipment or to provide a bed for a care assistant.

Lawyers for ten disabled people who brought test cases said they would now go to the Court of Appeal.

Richard Stein, from solicitors Leigh Day, said: “Our clients are bitterly disappointed with today’s decision, but they are not defeated. We, along with the other lawyers acting on behalf of adults with disabilities, will appeal this judgment and we remain confident that the discrimination which was recognised by the court and which has been perpetrated against our clients by this legislation is not justified and is unlawful.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are pleased to learn that the court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people. Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people’s extra bedrooms.”

However, housing charity Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb said: “This ruling is devastating news for disabled adults and families with disabled or vulnerable children, who’ll be put at real risk of homelessness for having a bedroom they just can’t do without.”

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