While everyone’s looking at Trump, Theresa May just suffered two humiliating defeats

Steve Topple

Theresa May’s government has suffered two major defeats while everyone watches Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. And she’ll want to keep them very, very quiet.

The ‘bedroom tax’: discriminatory

The government was defeated twice in the Supreme Court over the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ on Wednesday 9 November. The Spare Room Subsidy has been in force since 1 April 2013. People in the social rented sector deemed to have one spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14%. And people with two or more spare bedrooms have seen a reduction of 25%. Critics argue that the bedroom tax discriminates against disabled people, single mothers, and those with carers.

But the Supreme Court has ruled against the government twice, in cases which could set precedents.

Jacqueline Carmichael from Southport, Merseyside, has spina bifida and needs a special hospital-type bed in her bedroom with an electronic pressure mattress. She has to sleep in a fixed position and cannot share a bed with her husband. There is no space for an extra bed in the room, so they require a two-bedroom flat. Her husband Jayson is also her full-time carer. The couple lost 14% of their housing benefit after the bedroom tax came into force. But the Supreme Court found the government had acted unlawfully, and ruled this was discriminatory.

The ‘bedroom tax’: discriminatory. Again

The Rutherfords from Pembrokeshire, care for their severely disabled grandson Warren in a specially-adapted three-bedroom bungalow. He has a rare genetic disorder, Potokoi-Shaffer syndrome, and is unable to walk, talk or feed himself. Both Paul and Susan have disabilities as well, and can only care for Warren with the help of paid carers who stay overnight. The family was subject to the bedroom tax because the carers sleep in a third bedroom. And while housing benefit regulations allow for an additional bedroom if a disabled adult requires overnight care, it does not extend to disabled children.

Judges ruled in favour of the Rutherfords in a previous court case. They said the government was discriminating against disabled children. The government appealed the court’s decision, but today the Supreme Court threw out this appeal. Both cases could now open the floodgates for numerous actions against the bedroom tax.

No privatisation of children’s services

As The Canary previously reported, the Conservative government has been trying to push the child and social work bill through the House of Lords. Critics argue if the Tories passed the bill as law it would mean a “bonfire” of children’s rights. The bill would allow local authorities to opt-out of national child laws in order to find better ways of working. But critics argued it would mean a postcode lottery of services and that it would open up children’s services to privatisation.

On Tuesday 8 November, the House of Lords voted down this part of the bill. The section would have originally allowed local authorities to opt out of national law for three years. They could then apply for an extension from the government for another three. And with companies like G4S already pushing to take over children’s services, the prospect of privatisation was very real.

But peers were not convinced the bill should let national children’s laws be stripped away. The House of Lords voted 245-213 in favour of scrapping the clause in its entirety. The government, however, may well re-insert the clause when the bill moves to the House of Commons. This could create what’s known as ‘ping-pong‘ between the two houses. So it may not be the end of the story.

The Conservatives in chaos

As the world focuses on Trump’s victory, the Conservative government descends into yet more chaos. Theresa May must be feeling somewhat worried. The bedroom tax is looking shaky, and parts of its child and social work bill have been left in tatters. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, and all other opposition parties now need to latch onto this disarray on the Conservative benches and utilise it to its maximum potential.

Get Involved!

Support the Anti-Austerity Alliance.

Sign the petition to stop the child and social work bill.

Write to your MP, asking them to voice their dissatisfaction with the Bedroom Tax.

Featured image via Flickr

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