Welfare to Work

High Court decides Under Occupancy Penalty/Bedroom Tax does not discriminate against the disabled

High Court decides Under Occupancy Penalty/Bedroom Tax does not discriminate against the disabled

Campaigners attempted to block the Under Occupancy Penalty/Bedroom tax by taking the DWP to court on the grounds that it has not fulfilled its duty to disabled people. The legal challenge failed when the High Court ruled that the policy was lawful and did not discriminate unfairly against the disabled[1][2][3][4].

The policy has previously been discussed here and here. The Under Occupancy Penalty/Bedroom tax is a policy whereby social housing tenants claiming Housing Benefit will be required to abide by more stringent rules to ensure that social housing stock is used more efficiently. Households with a single unused bedroom will have 14% of their Housing Benefit eligible rent withdrawn and households with two or more unused bedrooms will have 25% of their Housing Benefit eligible rent withdrawn.

The campaigners argued that the policy was discriminatory to disabled people. They argued this was due to the fact that many disabled people require a spare bedroom for their additional needs. Due to the fact that the policy does not distinguish between the able-bodied with spare bedrooms and disabled people with spare bedrooms, they argued that this constituted a violation of human rights. Campaigners have called the ruling “devastating” and claim that many families are at risk of homelessness[1][2][3][4].

The DWP said that it was “pleased” by the ruling and argues that it has “fulfilled [their] equality duties to disabled people”. They claimed that reform was essential to make the housing benefits system fairer to the taxpayer[5]. They also claimed that extra discretionary support (which was increased from £150 million to £185 million earlier this week) was sufficient to prevent a rise in homelessness[5][6].

Nevertheless, the court also criticised the DWP for failing to act on a previous court ruling regarding the Under Occupancy Penalty/Bedroom tax[1][3]. The previous ruling from March required the DWP to create new regulations to exempt the parents of disabled children from benefits cuts[1][7]. The DWP said that new laws would be implemented as soon as Parliament returned from its summer break.



  • Is the policy discriminatory? Should disabled people be exempt from the policy?
  • Are the discretionary payments satisfactory to prevent a rise in homelessness?


Quoted links

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jul/30/bedroom-tax-legal-high-court

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/campaigners-vow-to-fight-on-after-challenge-to-bedroom-tax-is-thrown-out-by-high-court-8737725.html

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23503095

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10201239/Bedroom-tax-is-legal-court-rules.html

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-on-the-judgement-on-the-spare-room-subsidy

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/spare-room-subsidy-funding-update

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2013/mar/14/bedroom-tax-disabled-children-exemption-u-turn

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