The National Council for Civil Liberties, otherwise known as Liberty, has been granted permission to bring a judicial review against the coalition government’s hated ‘bedroom tax’ housing policy.
Liberty describe themselves as a ‘cross party, non-party membership organisation at the heart of the movement for fundamental rights and freedoms in the UK’.
Under changes to Housing Benefit rules introduced by the government in April 2013, social housing tenants occupying a property deemed to be larger than their requirements must contribute toward their rent through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they are entitled to claim.
The amount of the deduction depends upon how many spare bedrooms a household has is their home: 14 per cent Housing Benefit deduction for one spare bedroom or 25 per cent for two or more extra bedrooms.
Bedroom Tax regulations state that where a child lives between two different households, Housing Benefit can only be paid to the household who receives Child Benefit for that child.
Child Benefit can only be paid to one parent, which means that the other parent could have their Housing Benefit cut, even if a spare room in their home is used by the child as a bedroom whenever they visit and stay overnight.
Liberty is representing three individuals whose Housing Benefit has been cut as a result of being affected by the ‘bedroom tax’. Liberty claim that the ‘bedroom tax’ infringes upon their clients human rights, because it is in violation of article 14 (in conjunction with article 8) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (pdf) and unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act.
Article 8 of the ECHR states that there should be ‘no interference’ from a public authority in an individuals right to a family life and their home, whilst article 14 states that these rights should be secured ‘without discrimination on any ground’.
Liberty argue that their clients Housing Benefit should not be reduced, on the grounds that the ‘bedroom tax’ discriminates against their clients status of being a ‘secondary carer’ of their children.
They also argue that the ‘bedroom tax is ‘indirectly discriminatory on grounds of sex, given that in separated families the majority of resident parents are female while the majority of non-resident parents are male’.
One of Liberty’s clients, Simon Cohen from Gloucestershire, has a son who lives with him four days a week in a two-bedroom house. Even though his son uses the second bedroom in his home whenever he stays over, Mr Cohen has been forced to accept a 14 per cent cut in this Housing Benefit because under existing ‘bedroom tax’ legislation the spare bedroom is regarded as being “unoccupied”.
Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, said:
“A child’s bedroom is their sanctuary and these parents are providing stable and secure homes, not ‘under-occupying’ their properties. This one-size-fits-all rule discriminates against families outside a certain narrow mould, meaning that our clients represent thousands of parents who want to be part of their children’s lives. A Government who talks of prioritising families should know better.”
Liberty launched legal proceedings on behalf of their clients in April 2013 following the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, and have now been given permission to take the case forward to a full judicial review.
Liberty are waiting for the case to be listed before they will receive a date(s) for the hearing.