Following a High Court decision, Leader of the Council Keith Wakefield hit out at the government for failing to protect disabled families from the bedroom tax.
The bedroom tax requires households in social accommodation to pay up to an additional 25% of their rent. It affects households who already claim Housing Benefit, including households who work and are on a low income. The calculation for how many bedrooms a household needs makes no provision for adult partners who are unable to share a bedroom due to one or both of them having a disability.
The 10 cases considered by the High Court included disabled adults who are unable to share a bedroom with their partner and families with children who are vulnerable and disabled. This last includes children who have been victims of violence and abuse from adults.
On 30th July the High Court ruled that the government’s decision making process had NOT disproportionately discriminated against disabled people.
In part, it decided this because the government allocated funds to local authorities to help mitigate against the cuts to benefits.
But as campaign groups such have Shelter have pointed out, the funds made available for Discretionary Housing Payments can only support 5% of those households who are subject to the benefit changes.
The High Court did confirm that the Department for Work and Pensions needed to quickly implement changes to legisla- tion to confirm that some disabled siblings could not share a bedroom. This was following a previous appeal case, which the government also tried to defend, where the government was found to discriminate against disabled siblings by effectively forcing them to share a bedroom even where this was not reasonable.
Many of the families who lost the Judicial Review have indicated they will appeal – and we wish them every success.
Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, made his opinion clear:
“The Government’s defence of its flawed bedroom tax policy in the High Court shows its uncaring attitude towards disabled people living in social housing on very low incomes.
“As the campaigners at the high court demonstrated, this policy particularly punishes families with vulnerable or disabled children. That is why I have such sympathy for those who have lost their case in court.
These are families where, contrary to Government rules, children cannot share a room – that may be because a child is at risk of violence from a sibling, or because a child is suffering trauma as a result of domestic violence or abuse. I hope ministers will recognise what impact these policies are having on some of our most vulnerable residents.”
“Government welfare changes are hitting many low income families very hard – and it is important to remember that the majority of those affected by these changes are working families. As a council we have seen huge increases in demand for advice and support, and we know voluntary organisations in the city are experiencing similar pressure.
“In Leeds, we are trying to do all we can to help vulnerable people despite cuts to our own budgets. We are re-designating rooms where it is appropriate to do so, ensuring that Discretionary Housing Payments are made to those who cannot move and making sure advice services are readily available.
“Sadly, the situation isn’t helped by the fact that like many other big cities, we in Leeds have a shortage of social housing stock and huge waiting lists – so even where people want to move there isn’t always an alternative home available. We are working hard to address this but there isn’t going to be a quick solution.”