A victim of domestic abuse has won a legal battle against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in a case involving the controversial ‘bedroom tax’.
The landmark ruling comes after a woman was forced to pay extra money for having one extra bedroom in her ‘sanctuary scheme’ secured home.
The sanctuary scheme, launched in 2010, is a Government-backed programme which aims to allow victims of abuse to continue living in their own home by installing a ‘sanctuary’ – such as a panic room.
However, the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, reintroduced in 2012, meant that some victims were being forced out of their own homes as the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant is reduced if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than necessary.
According to reports, the victim’s housing benefit was slashed by 14 per cent after she was found to have one more bedroom than she was allowed to have under the legislation after her abusive partner was forced out of the home and sentenced to jail.
Handing down its decision, the European Court of Human Rights said the victim’s human rights had been infringed after her housing benefit was cut and could no longer afford to live in the secure property.
The latest ruling reverses a 2016 Supreme Court decision which saw five out of seven top judges rule against the victim of abuse.
Commenting on the outcome, the claimant’s solicitor said: “These changes to housing benefit have had a catastrophic impact upon vulnerable people across the country.
“Our client, whose life is at risk, has suffered great anxiety as a result of the bedroom tax and the uncertainty about this case. She lives in a property which has been specially adapted by the police, at great expense, to protect her and her child.
“The prospect of having to move another property (where she will not have any of these protections) or take in a lodger has loomed large for her during the six years it has taken this case to reach this stage. She is a vulnerable single parent who has been a victim of rape and assault. She is delighted that after such a long battle, the European Court of Human Rights has recognised the impact that the bedroom tax is having on her and others like her.”
Lawyers have now called on the Government to urgently exempt victims of domestic violence from the bedroom tax.
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