A couple that's already won a legal victory over the U.K. government has been forced to appear before a judge again. This is a move which could have major implications for future welfare appeals. From their apartment in Southport, England—which has boxes of medical supplies stacked up next to a single bed—the Carmichaels are engaging with the government in the Supreme Court to have their case concerning the notorious “bedroom tax” re-examined.
Charlotte and Jayson Carmichael have already taken legal action after being penalized for having an “extra” bedroom in their property. Charlotte, 45, has severe spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Her husband Jayson is her full-time caregiver. The apartment they currently live in has been partly adapted for Charlotte’s needs. She is unable to share an ordinary double bed with Jayson as it would inflame her permanent pressure sores, and the room is too small to put two single beds in there. Charlotte needs her own bedroom, but because of this, their state welfare has been cut. The room which Jayson sleeps in every night is classed as a “spare bedroom”, by the Department for Work and Pensions under the new rules, and consequently, the Carmichaels have lost £12 per week in state benefits.
In 2014, a local tribunal ruled that the couple would be exempt from the new welfare policy regarding “spare” bedrooms, and reinstated their full welfare entitlement. Unfortunately, the DWP instigated an appeal against this decision, which has forced Jayson and Charlotte to take counter-action. The couple is currently fighting a legal battle in the Supreme Court over this discriminatory decision.
It has so far taken two years to get it to court, and the couple had to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from their local council, just so that they could pay their rent. They are involved in this action as part of a group of five families with disabilities who have been penalized in the same way.
The couple feels they are trapped in their current situation, as they desperately need more space: the apartment’s hallway is blocked by Charlotte’s mobility scooter, and boxes of catheters and incontinence pads are stacked up in their living room. However, the current law says they are only eligible for a one-bedroom property, so their housing association will not offer them a bigger apartment.
The amount that has been cut from their welfare benefits, £12 per week, may not seem like much, certainly not to a government minister, but it is making a significant impact on the Carmichaels’ finances when they have little enough to live off as it is. As Charlotte points out, these circumstances have not come about by choice, so they are in effect suffering from discrimination through no fault of their own.
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