Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions are celebrating a new legal victory which could “severely curtail” the ability of benefit claimants to challenge cruel and draconian welfare changes in court.
The Government has won a legal case that has the potential to prevent victims of unjust benefit decisions from using the Human Rights Act when challenging those decisions at a social security Tribunal.
“The tribunal would no longer be able to address the injustice that is caused to a social welfare claimant by the application of regulations that breach their rights protected by the Human Rights Act,” Lucy Cadd of Leigh Day solicitors told Politics.co.uk.
She added: “It is another example of the government seeking to undermine disabled people and social welfare claimants in general.”
It follows a case brought by Jayson and Charlotte Carmichael, who successfully argued at the Supreme Court in London that the ‘bedroom tax’ unlawfully discriminates against disabled people. The decision forced the Government to amend existing legislation.
The controversial and hated ‘bedroom tax’, also known as the “spare room subsidy”, limits the amount in Housing Benefit a person can receive when their home is deemed to have more bedrooms than needed.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the DWP have now successfully argued that the first tier tribunal only has the power to identify that legislation is ‘incompatible’ with the Human Rights Act, and not the power to instruct the Government to amend social security legislation.
This essentially means that the Human Rights Act can no longer be used to seek justice and redress at a first-tier social security tribunal.
However, it doesn’t prevent people from using the Act to challenge benefit decisions at the High Court, but for many this could prove to be too expensive and stressful.
Jason Carmichael said: “So many other people’s rights depended on the outcome of this case.
“I am infuriated that the government has taken this action but we remain proud of our case and the great victory that it brought forward against the bedroom tax.”
Asked whether the family plan to challenge the court’s ruling, the Carmichael’s said: “It’s been so stressful for us.
“We might decide that we’ve just had enough and that it’s time for somebody else to take up the fight.”
The family remain exempt from the bedroom tax themselves.
A DWP spokesperson said: “This case related to constitutional questions on the remedy a tribunal may give where a breach of human rights is established, and we are pleased the Court of Appeal agreed that it’s for the Government to amend relevant regulations to provide a remedy.
“Since 2014, we have given local authorities £60m a year in Discretionary Housing Payments for people affected by the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy who need extra help.”