A quick note on a succesful bedroom tax First Tier Tribunal decision in Islington.
Unfortunately there is no statement of reasons [Update 21/01/2014 – Statement of reasons and adviser submissions are here] and the decision notice, which I have seen, says nothing more than the appeal being allowed. For at least part of the decision, the reasons could be rather crucial, as we will see. The Law Centre caseworker for the appellant has given me all the information she has, but without reasons, we can’t be sure. There are news reports here and here. (I have decided not to use the appellant’s name. I see no reason to do so).
The appellant was the tenant of a property in Holloway, London, which had been assessed as having three bedrooms. She is 60 years old (thus below the pension credit age and exemption from the bedroom tax, though by how much below depends on her date of birth). She was the sole tenant and assessed as living alone. A two bedroom (25%) penalty was applied to her housing benefit.
The appellant’s arguments were:
i) Her adult son (32 years old) is severely disabled and is in full time care, but he returns to stay with his mother every week, for between 1 and 3 nights. The larger of the two ‘bedrooms’ was his bedroom.
ii) The other room was used to store the son’s belongings, clothes and disability related equipment. It was also only 42 square feet and not large enough to be considered as a bedroom.
The grounds of the decision are not clear. However, it appears that the FTT decided that:
i) One bedroom was occupied by the appellant’s son, and was therefore not subject to the removal of the spare room subsidy.
ii) The second bedroom was either (or both) not a bedroom by reason of the use for storage of the son’s disability related equipment, and/or not a bedroom as it was only 42 sq ft and no large enough to be considered a bedroom.
As this suggests, a statement of reasons is needed to properly consider the conclusions the FTT drew and how these amounted to ‘non vacant bedroom’ status.
The decision on residence of the client’s son is very interesting, not least in view of the Liberty Judicial Review of the bedroom tax regs as discriminating against separated families when children stay in both households.
The decision on the second ‘bedroom’ is potentially very interesting whether it was decided on the basis of tenant use, or on the basis of room size, or indeed a combination of both.
The suggestion is that Islington do not intend to appeal. But will Islington follow the ‘Don’t Panic’ guidance and obtain a statement of reasons to send to the DWP anyway? If so, we may yet get to see the reasons.
My grateful thanks to Lorna Reid, Benefits supervisor at Islington Law Centre, for discussing the case.