April 2013 Latest on the Bedroom Tax

02/04/2013
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The DWP has dropped an appeal to the Supreme Court over the amount of housing benefit to be awarded where an extra bedroom is required due to the needs of a disabled child.

In guidance to local authorities, HB/CTB Circular U2/2013, distributed today, the DWP highlights that, in Burnip, Trengove and Gorry, the Court of Appeal held that the local housing allowance size criteria discriminated unlawfully against the three appellants on grounds of disability, by not including provision to meet their need for an additional room.  The DWP had appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the use of the size criteria was not discriminatory or in any case could be justified.
However, this contradicted statements made by various conservative party ministers defending the ‘bedroom tax’ and as a result the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions decided not to pursue the appeal further.  So from the Court of Appeal judgment on 15 May 2012, local authorities should allow an extra bedroom for children who are unable to share because of their severe disabilities.
 
The DWP goes on to set out guidance to local authorities on assessing whether children are unable to share a bedroom and cautions that the judgment does not provide for an extra bedroom in other circumstances, for example, where the claimant is one of a couple who is unable to share a bedroom or where an extra room is required for equipment connected with their disability.
Cases where benefit has been suspended pending the outcome of the appeal to the Supreme Court can now be lifted and arrears paid as appropriate.
 
The judgment applies to both local housing allowance size criteria and social rented sector size criteria (known as the 'bedroom tax') due to be introduced from 1 April 2013.
 
In a further development, the DWP has issued new guidance to local authority housing benefit departments in relation to changes to size criteria restrictions for foster carers and parents of armed forces personnel.
The guidance allows for an extra bedroom for a foster child or children of an approved foster carer and to ensure that the parents of armed forces personnel who are away from home on operations will continue to have them included when applying the size criteria.
 
For approved foster carers in the social rented sector, a reduction for under-occupation will not be made in respect of the one additional bedroom for the foster child or children.
For approved foster carers in the private rented sector, the applicable local housing allowance (LHA) rate or local reference rent (LRR) will be determined by including one additional bedroom for the foster child or children.
If the claimant requires more than one additional room for foster children, they can apply for additional support with their housing costs through discretionary housing payments (DHPs).
An extra bedroom will not be provided for prospective foster carers until they are approved, however people going through the approval process will need to show that they have a spare room available - DHPs can be used to provide support in the interim period.
If the claimant or partner ceases to be an approved foster carer or their approval is revoked, the additional room will cease to apply to the size criteria.

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