Applying the bedroom tax to domestic violence victims is actually costing taxpayers, Labour says

The Government is set to spend thousands on a Supreme Court appeal

Jon Stone
Monday 01 February 2016 17:14 GMT
Campaigners demonstrating against the Bedroom Tax outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Campaigners demonstrating against the Bedroom Tax outside the Royal Courts of Justice (Getty Images)

It would cost the Government less to exempt victims of domestic violence from the “Bedroom Tax” than it would to fight a court battle to force them to pay it, Labour has claimed.

Last week the Government was defeated in the Court of Appeal after it tried to force a rape victim to pay the charge on her police-installed panic room.

Judges ruled that the policy, which the Government says is aimed at freeing up spare rooms in social housing, was unlawful and discriminated against the victims.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith asked DWP ministers how many victims were affected by the under-occupancy penalty and how much it would cost to exempt them.

When he did not receive a direct reply, he said: “I am sure the minister knows the answer to my question, it is 280 victims of domestic violence and it would cost around £200,000 to exempt them.

“If he won’t tell me that will he tell me how much it is going to cost him instead to try and defeat those victims in the Supreme Court. Is it more than the cost of exempting them?”

Justin Tomlinson, the DWP’s housing issues minister, answered the question instead of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Tomlinson said: “I don’t believe it does discriminate because Discretionary Housing Payments make sure that nobody falls under an artificial line. As a Government we’ve trebled the amount of support for victims of domestic abuse to £40m, a move I think would be welcomed to all across the House.

“If this was so wrong why did the benches opposition introduce this in the private sector when they were in power? It is right that the vulnerable in society are given the right support.”

The Government has launched an appeal against the ruling that its policy is unlawful and is taking the matter to the Supreme Court, Britain’s highest appellate court.

It is not yet known how much this appeal will cost the Government.

The Government says the charge, which is on people in social housing with additional bedrooms, saves £480 million a year.

The policies’ savings have previously reported to be over a hundred million pounds a year lower than previously hoped for, however.

Additionally the Government makes hundreds of millions of pounds of Discretionary Housing Payment available in order to counteract some of the effects of the policy.

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