Judges rule that the government’s new “bedroom tax” does not unlawfully discriminate against disabled people in social housing.
But campaigners said they welcomed the court’s criticism that the government has been aware since May 2012 that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children, but failed to act early to make the necessary regulations.
Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Cranston, said the current state of affairs “cannot be allowed to continue”.
New housing benefit regulations, introduced on 1 April, led to reductions in benefit payments to tenants assessed to be under-occupying their homes.
Under the rules, tenants with one spare bedroom have their housing benefit cut by 14 per cent, while those deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms have their payments reduced by of 25 per cent.
Human rights lawyers say that, unless the families move from their homes into smaller properties, they will build up rent arrears and be forced out.
Eleven cases were brought before London’s high court and were said to illustrate the serious impact on disabled people from the “bedroom tax” throughout the country.
Martin Westgate QC, for the applicants, told two judges the regulations were flawed because they failed to deal with the needs of the disabled and the amount of space and the number of rooms they needed if they were not to suffer discrimination.
The court was told that disabled people sometimes needed more room than people without disabilities because they could not share rooms with other family members or needed extra space to store equipment.
Mr Westgate argued that the new regulations breached article 14 of the European convention on human rights, which protects against discrimination.
He also said ministers were failing to comply with the 2010 equality act.
The Department for Work and Pensions rejects the “bedroom tax” tag and says the reality is that “a spare room subsidy” has been removed from social housing tenants.
The changes, which are part of the government’s austerity drive, are designed to save £500m a year.
In a YouGov poll in March, 49 per cent of people said they supported the “bedroom tax” and 38 per cent were opposed.