Thursday, 1 August 2013

Bedroom Tax court ruling

Inevitably, there will be a great deal of smoke and noise about the government's victory in the courts over what Labour [and the BBC] call the "bedroom tax". This decision does not mean necessarily that the Court believes the DWP [Department of Work & Pensions] was morally right to restrict housing benefit to a certain number of rooms per family. Nor does it make that policy immune to other political challenges.

What it did rule was that a separate bedroom for a disabled family member could not be regarded as a human right. That is, that the disabled were not being discriminated against by the refusal of the government to provide sufficient housing subsidy to guarantee them separate bedrooms.

That the court would have decided this should have been a foregone conclusion.

It would create unworkable and even absurd demands on the benefit system if anyone with a special need could claim that government provision for that need was his legal right. How about all the disabled or ill people now on housing waiting lists who have no adequate home at all? How about people whose temporary physical or mental illness might qualify for exceptional consideration?

It might be morally desirable [or not, depending on your outlook] to have all these personal variations of need catered for, and the government does make discretionary funds available to local councils for just that purpose, but it cannot be a legally binding "right".

This is just another example of how the notion of civil rights, with all their attendant legalistic implications is being misused. What is good or kind or compassionate, is not necessarily a matter of law.

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