Thomas Raine: The Value of Article 14 ECHR: The Supreme Court and the ‘Bedroom Tax’

“Court judgments can prompt modest amendments which afford greater protection to vulnerable people without compromising the government’s underlying policy objectives. Following Hurley, the government exempted those in receipt of carer’s allowance from the benefit cap. In response to the ‘bedroom tax’ judgments, the government will likely provide a simple exemption for adults who cannot share a bedroom and children who require overnight care. This will ensure that the “transparent medical need” of claimants such as Carmichael and Rutherford are provided for without calling into question the general justification of bedroom criteria for HB. It is only in the political arena that the latter may be contested.”

UK Constitutional Law Association

Thomas RaineSince it was introduced under the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012, the removal of the spare room subsidy, or ‘bedroom tax’ as it is known, has been one of the most controversial aspects of the government’s welfare reform agenda. The policy determines the amount of housing benefit (HB) to which social sector tenants are entitled by reference to the number of bedrooms in their home. HB is reduced when the number of bedrooms exceeds entitlement, by 14% if there is one excess bedroom and 25% if there are two or more excess bedrooms.

In R (Carmichael and Rourke) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] UKSC 58 the Supreme Court heard appeals relating to HB claimants who were deemed to be ‘under-occupying’. One disabled claimant, Carmichael, was unable to share a bedroom with her husband as she required a special bed. The Rutherfords needed an additional bedroom…

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