Liberty moves forward with ‘bedroom tax’ legal challenge

01 May 2014

Today Liberty announced that it has been granted permission to bring a Judicial Review of the Government’s controversial “bedroom tax”, based on the policy’s impact on separated families with shared custody of children.

The scheme cuts parents’ Housing Benefit if they have a ‘spare room’, even if that room is used by a child who lives with them on a part-time basis. Liberty is challenging the lawfulness of the relevant regulations on the grounds they are irrational and a violation of Articles 8 and/or 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a private and family life and no discrimination).

A High Court Judge has now indicated that it is in the public interest for Liberty’s arguments to be heard and has given permission for the case to go forward. The human rights group launched the claim in April last year on behalf of three clients adversely affected by the policy, including Simon Cohen, from Gloucestershire, whose son lives with him four days a week in his two-bedroom house. Under the scheme his son is not considered part of his household – his room is deemed “unoccupied” – and Mr Cohen’s housing benefit has been cut by 14%.

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 is seeking a ruling that the relevant provision – Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 – is incompatible with its clients’ and their children’s rights under Article 8 and/or Article 14 of the European Convention – and thus unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act.

Contact: Liberty Press Office on 0207 378 3656 or 07973 831128

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Liberty has been granted permission to bring a claim for Judicial Review regarding the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 as amended by the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012. It has been instructed by three individuals whose Housing Benefit has been reduced in accordance with Regulation B13 since 1 April 2013 and who wish to challenge the lawfulness of the Regulations on the grounds that they are irrational and/or violate Article 8 and/or Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The clients intend to seek relief, including a declaration that Regulation B13 should not apply to them and is invalid by reason of incompatibility with Articles 8 and/or 14 of the Convention.

2. The bedroom tax regulations provide that where a child lives between two households, the child is only entitled to a bedroom in the household where their parent or guardian receives Child Benefit on their behalf. Child Benefit can only be paid to one parent, so the parent who doesn’t receive the Child Benefit (and is more likely, on average, to be the father) has their Housing Benefit cut even if their ‘spare room’ is in fact their child’s bedroom.

3. Liberty submits that Article 8 requires the existing level of Housing Benefit to be preserved in order to enable family life to continue. It also argues that Regulation B13 is discriminatory under Article 14 on the grounds of its clients’ status as the “secondary” carer of their children and 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.

4. Liberty is now waiting for the case to be listed for a full hearing.

5. Please contact the Liberty Press Office with any requests for media interviews.