Councils and lawyers endanger the bedroom tax domestic abuse victim

A judicial review went to the High Court over a sanctuary room and the bedroom tax.  The DWP won.

Cue: anger and IDS is a bastard being the proverbial and typical comments and headlines.

In this case no.  It is the lawyers and especially the councils that deserve anger and scorn and huge amounts of anger and scorn.

Like all judicial reviews in the bedroom tax the legal question was Is the bedroom tax discriminatory and all that becomes is a vanity project for the lawyers.  Yet if this case and all 288 similar cases went to 288 First-tier Tribunals the legal question rightly becomes Is a sanctuary room a bedroom and I would strongly argue they would win and far more importantly the victim, the tenant would be placed first and not as in a JR secondary to the kudos chasing vanity exercise lawyers have.

Lawyers have put a cause first and not the client by going to a judicial review and that stinks and as explained above the wrong legal question and the most important legal question is not asked as JR – the question of Is a sanctuary room a bedroom?

No, no and no again a sanctuary room is a sanctuary room not a bedroom.

Yet the real scorn must also go to the local council housing benefit departments who have made the outrageous decisions to call a sanctuary room a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes and there are 288 cases of this according to a Freedom of Information response to the Guardian in March 2014

That FOI response formed an article with the data in which these councils shamefully, outrageous and in clear error of law deemed these rooms to be bedrooms.

The biggest culprit was Middlesbrough with 69 cases of sanctuary rooms being deemed bedrooms. Then Stockton-on-Tees with 40 such cases and then North Tyneside with 28.  137 cases in just 3 North East councils and 137 wrong decisions in law for me that I would strongly suggest would be overturned at a bedroom tax tribunal.

The only other councils with double figure sanctuary rooms wrongly deemed to be bedrooms are Doncaster with 24, South Derbyshire with 12 and  West Lancashire in the North West with 11. The rest all in single figures include Southend-on-Sea (8); Halton (5); Hillingdon (6); Stoke-on-Trent (5); Telford and Wrekin (7); Redditch (9); Guildford (2)

All of these councils are wrong in law and in HB regulations for deeming a sanctuary room to be a bedroom.

I would also go as far as to say that even IDS would not seek to appeal against such a decision at First-tier Tribunals because of the politically sensitivity and more importantly about what a bedroom is – as has been defined in large part by the Upper Tribunal in the Fife cases. Read that judgment carefully as any FtT judge would have to do and a sanctuary room is not a bedroom it is a sanctuary room and I would feel very confident of winning any such cases.

The councils have all made errors and the UT Fife case backs this up fully with its seminal paragraph [54] which says:

Parliament intended decision makers to consider all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis.

No council could find when considering properly that a sanctuary room was indeed correctly described as a bedroom given the circumstances yet as we know all councils conducted a sham decision making exercise in the bedroom tax and merely believed the word of the landlord.  They did not consider any circumstances let alone any relevant ones and a sanctuary room has a bagful of very relevant circumstances that all point to it NOT being a bedroom.

Local councils, instead of making enquiries, that of course would cost them money, simply CHOSE to deliberately make life worse for survivors of domestic abuse.  Councils actions themselves are abuse not just abusive here and they need to be harangued and need to be told to change those decisions – all 288 of them – and to do so with immediate effect.

HB regulations state that when a decision is made with an error of law there is NO TIME LIMIT for that case to be appealed or reviewed.  This is a classic example of 288 cases all being made in error of law as every council has failed to take into consideration relevant circumstances – as the Upper Tribunal state clearly was the express intention of Parliament when they drafted the bedroom tax legislation.

IF local councils want to wait for me to take such a case against them then take that chance.  I have worked with 17 refuges across the country for many years and I am sure that details of such cases will find their way to me by womens services or indeed by the landlords who have converted properties by making sanctuary rooms.

Yet for once it would be good if local councils realised not only the bad publicity this will cause but it will also cost them dearly in time and expense to defend.

If for example any of the North East councils mentioned above which account for almost 50% of all such cases in just 3 councils alone wish to discuss this in complete confidence with me then please do so.  If any of the North East social landlords wish to contact me to then fine and I am regularly in the North East advising people there of how to appeal the bedroom tax.

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