© Steve Bell
Campaigners had hoped for ruling showing housing benefit regulations unlawfully discriminated against disabled adults in social housing

The government's "bedroom tax" does not unlawfully discriminate against disabled adults in social housing, the High Court has ruled.

Ten families had brought the case for judicial review, where lawyers argued that the cut in benefit for unoccupied bedrooms in social housing breached human rights.

But campaigners said they welcomed court criticism that the Government has been aware since May last year that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children but failed to act early to make the necessary regulations.

Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs "cannot be allowed to continue".

He added that the Government should alter the regulations "very speedily" to take into account the additional needs of disabled children.

But the Court found that that the benefit cut was not discriminatory in the case of disabled adults - even when, like disabled children, they were unable to share a room. Lawyers for the claimants said they would appeal the ruling.

Richard Stein, of Leigh Day, one of three firms to have brought the case, said:

"This is a most disappointing result. We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal. Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed.

"Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs."

New housing benefit regulations, introduced on 1 April, led to reductions in benefit payments to tenants judged to be under-occupying their accommodation.

Under new "size criteria", tenants with one spare bedroom have had a payment reduction of 14 per cent and those deemed to have two or more spare, a reduction of 25 per cent.

Martin Westgate QC, for the applicants, had argued the regulations were flawed because they failed to deal with the needs of the disabled and the amount of space and the number of rooms they realistically needed if they were not to suffer discrimination because of their disabilities.

"Each of the claimants has a need, because of disability, to occupy accommodation larger than that which would be allowed to them under the size criteria," Westgate had said.

The campaigners argue that the criteria for the regulations do not take into account that those with disabilities would be unable to share a room, needing more space than people without disabilities. In some cases more room may be needed for medical equipment, or for carers.

Westgate argued that the new regulations breached article 14 of the European convention on human rights, which protects against discrimination.

He also said ministers were failing to comply with the 2010 Equality Act.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which campaigns for affordable housing, said:

"Housing associations warned from day one that this policy was unworkable. Disabled people across the country are being forced to cut back on food and heating to pay the bedroom tax, despite the fact that many have had their homes adapted at great cost due to their disabilities.

"This judgment does not change the fact that the bedroom tax is a flawed and unfair policy that won't achieve what the Government hopes it will."