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  • Couple win battle in Supreme Court over bedroom tax

    Ollie Cowan

    A SPINA bifida sufferer from Southport and her carer husband have won landmark rulings at the UK's highest court over the controversial so-called ‘bedroom tax.’

    Jacqueline and Jason Carmichael, who live in a two-bedroom housing association flat in the resort, have had a protracted and ultimately successful battle throughout the British legal system against the Department for Work and Pensions.

    The DWP are not happy with the final verdict but they are now powerless to do anything,

    Supreme Court justices overturned a 2014 Court of Appeal decision which went against Jacqueline while also dismissing an appeal by the government against another couple from Pembrokshire.

    They upheld appeals by the DWP for five other cases however.

    Mrs Carmichael and the others complained that changes to housing benefit unlawfully discriminate against people with disabilities who have a need for an additional bedroom because of that disability.

    In a written ruling, the justices said the merits of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ or ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ was not a matter for the court, ‘nor is there any challenge to the legality of the cap as it applies in general.”

    Jason told the Champion: “We are over the moon and delighted. We wanted to shout from the rooftops and we wanted to have champagne at the time.

    “We can rest a lot easier now than what we were in the past. This is a big relief from the stress and panic of everything.”

    Rosa Curling, a solicitor at the law firm Leigh Day, who represented the Carmichaels, said: “This is an extremely important and welcome decision which recognises that the government cannot trample over people’s rights in the name of austerity.

    “Our clients had a very clear medical need for two bedrooms and it’s disappointing that the government chose to fight this case for three years, putting our clients through a long period of uncertainty.

    “Our clients are delighted that justice has been done and they can now start to move on with their lives knowing that their rights as a disabled person and their right to a family life together will be respected.”

    A DWP spokesman said:“It is welcome that the Court found in our favour in five out of the seven cases.

    “The Court also agreed with our view that Discretionary Housing Payments are generally an appropriate and lawful way to provide assistance to those who need extra help. In the two specific cases where the Court did not find in our favour, we will take steps to ensure we comply with the judgement in due course.

    “In most cases, Local Authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their residents, which is why we will have given them over £1bn by the end of this parliament for Discretionary Housing Payments to ensure that people in difficult situations don’t lose out.”

    Local Care spokesperson Tony Dawson said: “Councillors took up this matter with the Minister from March 2013 onwards, calling for the government to recognise the need for flexibility to deal with people who need extra accommodation due to disability. Unfortunately, the requests, fell on deaf ears. 

    “The Supreme Court has now unanimously agreed that this is not a lawful form of discrimination and has required the government to recognise the clear circumstances in which people with severe disabilities are entitled to have their need for extra space assessed automatically under the statutory scheme.”

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