The Department for Work and Pensions is trying to force a rape victim to pay the so-called “Bedroom Tax” on her police-installed panic room, it has emerged.
Ministers were told by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday that the DWP’s policy was unlawful and discriminatory – but they have now said they will challenge that ruling at the Supreme Court.
The woman, known only as “A” for her own protection and safety, is a victim of rape, assault, harassment and stalking at the hands of an ex-partner.
In response to the continued threat against her, police installed a reinforced panic room in her home, as well as other measures such as reinforced doors, alarms directly linked to the police station and a special marker on the house.
The DWP however says “A”’s panic room counts as a spare bedroom and that she must pay the charge, equal to a 14 per cent cut in her housing support.
Rebekah Carrier, “A”’s solicitor, said her client was terrified for herself and her child, who she lives with.
“These changes to housing benefit have had a catastrophic impact upon vulnerable people across the country,” Ms Carrier said.
“Our client’s life is at risk and she is terrified. The anxiety caused by the bedroom tax and the uncertainty about this case has been huge. She lives in a property which has been specially adapted by the police, at great expense, to protect her and her child.
“The prospect of having to move to another property– where she will not have any of these protections – or take in a lodger has loomed large for her during the three years it has taken this case to come to the Court of Appeal.
Ms Carrier said an investment had been made by the state in “A”’s home and that forcing her to leave it was a “false economy”, especially since new security would be required to be installed at any new property.
As well as Ms Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors, “A” is also represented by barristers Karon Monaghan QC, Matrix Chambers, and Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Katie O’Byrne of Doughty Street Chambers.
The charity Women’s Aid is also supporting the legal challenge against the Department for Work and Pensions.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
The legal battle over the bedroom tax policy comes as the National Housing Federation asked the DWP to clarify whether recent changes to the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit will have an impact on supported housing.
Charities have warned that domestic abuse and sexual assault victims who live in rape crisis centres, a form of supported housing, could be affected or lose their spaces.
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, told the Independent: “We want the Government to clarify the definition of the social sector in relation to this policy, and whether supported housing will be exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate of housing benefit based on the Local Housing Allowance.
“Housing Benefit is an important source of income for refuge services, so cuts to it would cause a significant problem for them.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said it “fundamentally” disagreed with the Court of Appeal’s Ruling in favour of the rape victim “A”.
“We are pleased that the court found – once again – that we have complied with the Public Sector Equality Duty,” a spokesperson said.
“We fundamentally disagree with the court’s ruling on the ECHR, which directly contradicts the High Court. We have already been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“We know there will be people who need extra support. That is why we are giving local authorities over £870m in extra funding over the next five years to help ensure people in difficult situations like these don’t lose out.”Reuse content