DWP drops Supreme Court appeal over disabled children ‘bedroom tax’

March 14, 2013

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued an ‘urgent bulletin’ announcing that the Secretary of State has decided to drop his pursuit of an appeal at the Supreme Court on a case he had lost at the Court of Appeal.

The case, represented by Child Poverty Action Group, was Richard Gorry v (1) Wiltshire Council (2) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The Court of Appeal ruled on 15 May 2012 that the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) size criteria discriminated unlawfully against the children in the Gorry family on grounds of disability. The Court judged that children with severe disabilities – in this case a child with spina bifida and another with Down’s Syndrome – could not always be expected to share a bedroom because of additional needs related to their disability.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions applied to the Supreme Court to appeal the decision on 25 May 2012.  However, the new ‘urgent bulletin’ for Benefit Authorities announced that he will no longer be pursuing the appeal at the Supreme Court.

While this specific case was for a private rental housing benefit claim, the bulletin confirms the decision is also relevant to families with social sector tenants who stood to be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, or social sector under-occupancy penalty.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

“This is a tremendous victory for disabled children and it’s a victory for common sense.

“In the case Child Poverty Action Group represented, it was clearly not possible for a child with spina bifida and another with Down Syndrome to share a bedroom together with such different demands and needs. It’s absolutely right that the housing benefit system should respond to challenges like this, and it is clear discrimination if it does not.

“Even with today’s decision on severely disabled children, disabled people will still be amongst the hardest hit by the bedroom tax, with £300 million being cut from their housing support. The bedroom tax is surely one of the cruellest cuts of all and should be scrapped altogether.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • The announcement was made in ‘urgent bulletin’ HB/CTB U2/2013 from the Department for Work and Pensions. For detailed queries on the announcement and for the reasons of the Secretary of State for dropping the case, please make your enquiries to the DWP press office.
  • The ‘urgent bulletin’ stated:

“For children with severe disabilities where they are unable to share a bedroom (Gorry), the department chose to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the use of the size criteria was not discriminatory or in any case could be justified.

“The Secretary of State has today clarified the position regarding disabled children and has decided not to pursue the appeal further.

“This means that from the date of the Court of Appeal judgment on 15 May 2012, local authorities (LAs) should allow an extra bedroom for children who are unable to share because of their severe disabilities.”

  • As confirmation that the decision also applies to social sector ‘bedroom tax’ cases from April 2013, where there are severely disabled children, the ‘urgent bulletin’ stated:

“The judgment applies to both the LHA size criteria and the reduction of the spare room subsidy which applies from 1 April 2013.”

  • CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
  • CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty, which has over 150 member organisations and is campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.

For further information please contact:

Tim Nichols

CPAG Press Officer

Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302 

tnichols@cpag.org.uk

www.cpag.org.uk