Last week, Lady Hales for the Supreme Court ruled that the ‘bedroom tax’ could not be applied to a man with a disabled partner who needs extra room for her equipment and supplies. Not only will the couple receive their full housing benefit, but at least 155 other couples known to be in the same situation will also have their full benefit restored. 

The bedroom tax affects those in social housing who are deemed to have a spare bedroom; housing benefit is reduced by 14% if they have one spare room, and by 25% if they have two or more. Our Bedroom Tax FAQs page explains how a spare room is defined, and who is considered exempt from the penalty.

Whilst the aim of the penalty - to free up housing for those in overcrowded situations - might be sound, in practice it has been a poorly thought out, clumsy approach that has had a negative impact on many vulnerable people. Shortly after its introduction, the UN special investigator on housing told the government it should scrap the bedroom tax having heard "shocking" accounts of how it was affecting people. The situation has not improved since then. One of the main criticisms of the bedroom tax is that it's not always easy for people to move, with a lack of one-bedroom social housing meaning that those who want to downsize often have nowhere to go. That inability to move to smaller properties is even more profound for wheelchair users; Aspire research last year revealed the disproportionately long time it takes for local authorities to house wheelchair users compared to everyone else on their housing lists, so there seems little prospect that someone in an accessible property with a spare room can readily move to avoid being penalised by the bedroom tax. Meanwhile, those that need the extra space to accommodate bulky specialist equipment have seen their entitlement cut and, unsurprisingly, there have been consequences on their health and wellbeing.

The Supreme Court's decision shows that the government's insistence on penalising disabled people who need extra space is not compatible with human rights legislation; poor decisions can be appealed on the back of this ruling. It won't solve the problem for everyone, but it's further evidence that the bedroom tax is not fit for purpose and should urgently be reviewed.

If you have a spinal cord injury and have faced housing issues, including with the bedroom tax, our Housing Advice team may be able to help.

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