Bedroom tax ‘punishes poor & powerless,’ Supreme Court hears

The United Kingdom's Supreme Court in Westminster, central London (Reuters/Andrew Winning)
The United Kingdom's Supreme Court in Westminster, central London © Andrew Winning
Disabled people are unfairly impacted by the Tories’ ‘bedroom tax,’ lawyers for five appeal cases told the Supreme Court on Monday.

Campaigners for disability rights and women’s groups gathered outside the Supreme Court as judges heard five appeals that claim the subsidy discriminates against vulnerable citizens.

The cases previously failed in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

One of the claimants, Charlotte Carmichael, suffers from spina bifida, which means she is forced to sleep in a fixed position in a hospital bed. Living in a two-bedroom house in Manchester, Carmichael and her husband do not have enough space in one bedroom for two beds. She therefore relies on the extra room. They are nevertheless lumbered with a 14 percent tax on their benefits.

The bedroom tax, also called ‘under-occupancy’ or the ‘spare room subsidy,’ is a change to housing benefits that targets benefit claimants with spare bedrooms. Having one unused bedroom results in a 14 percent cut in housing benefit, while having two or more spare bedrooms results in a 25 percent cut.

Activist John Ingleson, who launched a petition against the tax that has gained more than 15,000 signatures, called on Prime Minister David Cameron to stop “punishing the poor and powerless.”

“Don’t make the poor pay with their homes to subsidize tax breaks for the rich. If the billions lost to corporate tax dodgers and very rich individuals were collected instead of cutting tax-collectors’ jobs then we could take care of the sick and vulnerable, easily!

“The housing crisis is not the fault of the poor. By encouraging more house-building the government could boost employment and ease the housing shortage.

“Curb rich landlords’ profits on poor housing and thereby reduce the welfare bill if need be but stop punishing powerless people with the cynical ‘Bedroom Tax.’”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn voted against the tax in 2011 and has recently referred to it as “cruel, unjust and illegal.”

However, Cameron argues: “It’s unfair to subsidize spare rooms in the social rented sector when you don’t subsidize them in the private sector.”