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Tribunal allowed to award benefits if rights breached

A TRIBUNAL can order that benefits be awarded to an individual when it finds that deductions are in breach of the Human Rights Act, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

Jacqueline Carmichael, who suffers from spina bifida, needs to sleep in a fixed position in a special bed.

She cannot share a bed with her husband and, as there is no space for an additional bed in the room, they require a two-bedroom flat.

But, in November 2012, Sefton Council wrote to the couple to say they had “one more bedroom than your household needs.”

Ms Carmichael’s husband and full-time carer Jayson appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, which ruled in his favour.

In November 2016, the Supreme Court, in a judicial review brought against the bedroom tax by Ms Carmichael, found the government had acted unlawfully against the family in reducing their housing benefit by 14 per cent.

Then, last April, the Upper Tribunal found that applying the deduction would be a “clear breach” of the Carmichaels’ human rights and upheld the First-tier Tribunal’s decision.

The government is appealing against that decision, arguing that the tribunals could not remake decisions in order to eliminate a breach of human rights.

But Richard Drabble QC, for Mr Carmichael, submitted that the upper tribunal’s reasoning was “impeccable” and should be upheld.

He said that a tribunal had the power to decide where the law it was applying would breach the claimant’s human rights.

Mr Drabble added that the size criteria in the bedroom tax rules were made through the “wrong” assumption that a married couple such as the Carmichaels could share a bedroom.

Judgement in the case was reserved and will be delivered at a later date.

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