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Developments in social housing: October 2013

Anti-social behaviour

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Bill, presented to Parliament on 9 May 2013, is scheduled to have its report stage on 14 and 15 October 2013, with its 3rd reading also scheduled to take place on 15 October 2013.  Keep an eye on its progress by visiting their website.

Policy

In R(Tabbakh) v The Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust [2013] EWHC 2492 (Admin) Mr Justice Cranston reviewed the law relating to policy challenges. He identified three areas of possible challenge (focusing as he was on government policy) – a policy which leads to unlawful acts will itself be held to be unlawful, if a policy creates a significant risk of Article 3 violations it will be unlawful and where a policy creates a proven risk of injustice inherent in the system itself it will be unlawful.  It is that 3rd area which Cranston J restricted from what had been perceived as a wider approach such that it may be more difficult for charities and NGOs to bring strategic judicial review claims in the future.

Regulation

The HCA’s second Sector Risk Profile, published on 19 September 2013 finds the social housing sector to be in good financial health and able to manage risks. However, there are two areas where the scale and nature of the risks facing the sector are evolving particularly rapidly – the potential impact of welfare reform and the different risk profile of diverse activities. View the report.

Rent

View the ever impressive Wendy Wilson's informative and excellent report on rent setting in the social housing sector.

Welfare Reform

On 24 September 2013 judicial review proceedings were issued by CPAG in the case of R (Rutherford and Todd) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (CO/13841/2013).  CPAG has explained the case thus:

“CPAG is acting for Paul and Susan Rutherford and their grandson Warren in a judicial review challenge to the bedroom tax. The case concerns the housing benefit restrictions for social tenants introduced in April 2013, which we argue discriminate unlawfully against disabled children who need overnight care.

Warren, who is aged 13, suffers from Potokoi-Shaffer Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder which causes him grave cognitive and physical disabilities. He requires 24 hour care by at least two people at all times. His grandparents, who both suffer from disabilities themselves, struggle to look after him alone and need the help of two carers who can stay overnight at least twice a week. The family live in a 3-bedroom bungalow that has been specially adapted to meet Warren’s needs. Paul and Susan share one room, Warren sleeps in another and the third room is needed for the carers to stay overnight and to store Warren’s equipment. Without the help of overnight carers Warren would have to be put into residential care, at substantial extra cost to his local authority.

As a result of the restrictions on the size criteria in social tenants, introduced in April 2013, the family have been deemed to be “under-occupying” and their housing benefit has been reduced. The regulations currently allow for an additional bedroom if the claimant or their partner “require overnight care”, following the decision of the Court of Appeal in Burnip v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. However, there is no provision for children who need an overnight carer. We are arguing that this discriminates against disabled children contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that there is no rational justification for the exclusion of children from the exemption for overnight carers.

The case can be distinguished from the 10 judicial review claims dismissed earlier this year (MA v Others [2013] EWHC 2213 (QB)) and now on appeal to the Court of Appeal, as none of the claimants in that case were disabled children who need an overnight carer.”