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"Bedroom tax" does discriminate against disabled people, says Christian charity

The High Court has rejected claims that the Government's so-called "bedroom tax" unlawfully discriminates against disabled people.

New regulations introduced in April led to reductions in social housing benefits to tenants with a spare bedrooom, assessed to be under-occupying their accommodation. As a result, lawyers representing ten disabled families mounted a legal challenge arguing the tax breaches their clients' Human Rights and claim they need extra space for health reasons. Richard Stein, from solicitors Leigh Day, said he'll appeal today's decision and believes the government's cutbacks are targeting the most vulnerable.

In a statement outside the High Court he said: "We remain confident that the discrimination which was recognised by the court and which has been perpetrated against our clients by the legislation is not justified and is unlawful."

Through The Roof is a Christian charity that works with disabled people. Its director Tim Woods gave Premier's Victoria Laurence during the News Hour his reaction to today's ruling:

The government has welcomed today's ruling and a Department of Work and Pensions statement said:

"We are pleased to learn that the court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people.

"Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people's extra bedrooms. 

"But we have ensured extra discretionary housing support is in place to help those who need it and today we have announced a further £35m of funding to councils to aid residents."

However, the Church of Scotland is also disappointed at this morning's court ruling. It is also urging that no-one should lose their home because of it.  

Convener of the Church and Society Council Revd Sally Foster-Fulton said:

"We call for the politicians responsible to rethink, revise and review this legislation which is penalising some of the most at risk members of society through no fault of their own.  

"This benefit cut unfairly targets some of our most vulnerable and asks people already struggling to shoulder an even bigger burden on our behalf. 

"It is a flawed policy whose implementation has already had devastating results for disabled people.  

"At the recent General Assembly of the Church of Scotland we made a plea for local authorities not to evict people who are making a genuine effort to pay yet who have fallen behind in council tax arrears because of the bedroom tax, today we repeat that call.  

"In many houses extra bedrooms are not extra as they are used for equipment, for respite or for careers who come in. 

"Additionally, it is important to note that for many households there are no smaller properties available to rent. "  

"We hope that those who took the case to court will be successful if they decide to appeal."

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