21 March 2013 | By Samir Jeraj, Inside Housing

Human rights group Liberty is launching legal action against the government’s penalty for under-occupation of social housing.

The organisation said it will seek a judicial review as it believes the penalty, widely known as the ‘bedroom tax’, breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. Liberty said it will argue that the policy is discriminatory and would infringe on family life.

Under the penalty, which comes in from 1 April, working age social tenants on housing benefit will have their payments cut if they are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms under the government’s size criteria.

Corinna Ferguson, legal officer for Liberty, said: ‘Why is a government that prides itself on prioritising families penalising people merely for having children?’

Liberty is representing three people whose families are affected by the changes:

Simon Cohen, from Gloucestershire, whose 12-year-old son lives with him four days a week in his two-bedroom house. Under the scheme his son will not be considered part of his household – his room will therefore be deemed ‘unoccupied’.

Mark Hutchinson, from Derbyshire, whose seven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old stepson reside with him at weekends and during school holidays.

Kim Cotton, from Hampshire, whose eleven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son live with her every other week.

Ms Ferguson said that the penalty threatened thousands of shared care arrangements for children. ‘In no way can these loving parents be accused of “under-occupying” their properties or having “spare bedrooms” – these rooms are very much their children’s and home to many of their belongings.’

Earlier this month a separate challenge to the penalty was brought on behalf of 10 vulnerable and disabled children who will be affected by the policy. The High Court is expected to rule on whether this challenge can proceed within the next few days.