Tuesday 29 October 2013

GLC publish Updated Bedroom Tax Toolkit

Govan Law Centre's successful and popular Bedroom Tax Toolkit has now been updated to take on board recent successful First Tier Tribunal decisions in Scotland and England, and to explain how tenants who may be unable to pursue late appeals can nevertheless challenge bedroom tax decisions by way of supersession.

The GLC Bedroom Tax Toolkit was first launched on 6 April 2013 and has since been downloaded many thousands of times across the UK, and been used by many advice agencies and campaign groups across the country in Scotland, England, and Wales. You can download a free updated version of GLC's Bedroom Tax Toolkit in PDF format hereThe Bedroom Tax Toolkit is part of GLC's wider public and parliamentary campaign to prevent evictions and human misery from the bedroom tax.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

European Convention on Human Rights bedroom tax victory for severely disabled woman

A Tribunal Judge in Glasgow has set-aside an under-occupancy decision against a severely disabled woman on the grounds that it was incompatible with the appellants rights under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, read with Article 1 of the First Protocol. GLC believes this may be the first reported successful UK challenge on Human Rights grounds against the bedroom tax.

The woman, with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, was expected to share a specially adapted bedroom with her husband. The imposition of the bedroom tax had placed the couple in arrears of rent with their housing association landord. Tribunal Judge Boyd held that:

"In terms of section 3(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 regulation B13(5)(a) of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 can and should be read as follows:  "(a) a couple (within the meaning of Part 7 of the Act) (or one member of a couple who cannot share a bedroom because of severe disability)."  Not to so read it would be incompatible with the appellant's rights under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights read with Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights".

"Applying regulation B13(5)(a) as so read, the appellant is entitled to two bedrooms.  Accordingly there should not be an under occupancy reduction of 14% in her housing benefit entitlement from 1 April 2013.”

The Tribunal judge distinguished the present case from the recent unsuccessful judgment of the English High Court in MA, and supported the appellent's position that the English Court of Appeal's decision in Gorry was in point with the facts and circumstances of the appellant:

"The judgement in MA, at paragraph 88, distinguished the ten cases before the High Court under judicial review procedure from the decision in Gorry on the basis that Gorry related to a discrete group; families with children who could not share a bedroom by reason of their disabilities.  This approach was not applied in MA as it was considered that there was no discrete group.  As explained above, the Tribunal considers that the appellant is a member of a discrete group very similar to the group considered in Gorry – a person who cannot share a bedroom by reason of her severe disabilities - and as a result Gorry is the case most in point.  The judgement in Gorry was made by a higher Court that the judgment in MA.  It related to a statutory appeal, as is the case here, rather than a judicial review.  It is noted that there will be no appeal against the decision in Gorry but that permission has been granted for an appeal to be made against the decision in MA, and this appeal is being expedited".

The appellant's solicitor, GLC's Mike Dailly, said: "We are delighted for our client, and believe that this judgment is very robust as there was no dispute on the facts that the appellant was severely disabled and could not share her specially adapted bedroom with her husband. She did not have a spare or extra bedroom, she required her own bedroom to meet her needs as a severely disabled person. We think this decision - which we understand may be the first reported success in using unlawful discrimination and human rights law to challenge a bedroom tax decision in the UK - will be of great significance to other severely disabled people in similar circumstances to our client".

The judgment of Tribunal Judge LD Boyd is published here (with some personal data redacted to preserve our client's right of confidentiality).