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'Bedroom tax' - making sure carers' voices are heard in the Government appeal

19 February 2016

In January we saw a significant step forward for carers affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ when Carers UK members Paul and Susan Rutherford took the Government to the Court of Appeal – and won. But with a Government appeal looming, we are fighting harder than ever to make sure vulnerable people affected by the policy have their voices heard.

Bedroom tax graphicWho are Paul and Susan Rutherford?

Carers UK members Paul and Susan Rutherford care for their profoundly disabled 14-year-old grandson, Warren.. They live in a specially adapted home which has a room for a professional care worker to stay when providing overnight care. This room was deemed spare, meaning the Rutherfords were hit by the ‘bedroom tax’ and their housing benefit was reduced.

What happened?

The Rutherfords took the Government to court to appeal – and won! The judges accepted that the bedroom tax unlawfully discriminates against disabled children requiring overnight care, as unlike for adults, the rules do not allow for an additional bedroom for their overnight carer or care worker. You can read more about the case here.

How were Carers UK involved?

We were delighted to hear the news. Along with our members, we have argued that the ‘bedroom tax’ unfairly penalises carers since it was first introduced in April 2013.

Our Director of Policy and Public Affairs Emily Holzhausen gave a statement of evidence in the original case which was referred to in the judgment. She argued that families who have a clear need for additional bedrooms for a carer or care worker should be entitled to an additional room, and that alternatives suggested by the government – such as moving to smaller accommodation or taking in a lodger – are not appropriate for carers.

Does this mean the 'bedroom tax' has been absolished?

Unfortunately not. Firstly, the judgment only rules that the ‘bedroom tax’ is discriminatory in the specific circumstances of the people in the case.  We don’t know exactly how many carers are in similar circumstances to the Rutherfords but Child Poverty Action Group who are representing the Rutherfords have said there could be thousands in a similar situation.  So far the regulations around the ‘bedroom tax’ have not been amended.

Secondly, the Government announced it will appeal the decision. The case will be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday 29 February 2016.

What are Carers UK doing about it?

As the Government appeal date approaches, we put out a call for carers in similar circumstance to the Rutherfords to share their story and we have gathered evidence to strengthen the case at the Appeal hearing.

We know from our research that carers affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ are often left unable to pay their bills, with some families falling behind on rent.

We’re continuing to urge the Government to amend the regulations to protect carers like the Rutherfordsand to exempt all carers from the Bedroom Tax

What will happen in the appeal?

Along with the Rutherfords case, the Supreme Court is also considering several other cases about the Bedroom Tax including cases where a carer is not able to share a room with a partner that they are caring for and cases where adaptations have been made to the property.

The variety of cases means that the results of the appeal could have a range of different implications for carers. We will provide information and advice on how carers could be affected as soon as possible after the judgment is made public.

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