Family with disabled child to appeal against ‘bedroom tax’ ruling

May 30, 2014

Two grandparents caring for a severely disabled child hit by the “bedroom tax” vowed to fight on today, after their judicial review challenge was dismissed by the High Court. Paul and Susan Rutherford care for their 14-year-old grandson Warren in a specially adapted home that includes a room for professional carers to stay in overnight. Their housing benefit has been reduced as they are deemed to have a spare bedroom.

The family are challenging housing benefit restrictions for social tenants, introduced last year, which charge families with disabled children who have a bedroom for overnight carers, even though there is an exemption for disabled adults in the same situation. They are represented by the Child Poverty Action Group. Mr Justice Stuart-Smith today dismissed their judicial review claim, relying on the fact that the family have been granted a discretionary housing payment from Pembrokeshire Council to cover the shortfall in rent for a year.

Mike Spencer the solicitor for the Child Poverty Action Group said: “The Rutherfords are understandably very disappointed by today’s ruling. The Court has at least indicated that the local council should help pay the shortfall in Warren’s rent, but ultimately families with severely disabled children should be entitled to the same exemption as disabled adults and not have to rely on uncertain discretionary payments. Paul and Sue work round the clock to care for Warren and have the constant fear hanging over them that Warren might lose his home and have to go into care. They will be seeking to appeal.”

Paul Rutherford said: "Obviously we are disappointed and we will be appealing. In his judgement, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith did say that Pembrokeshire Council ought to ensure that we continue to get the discretionary housing payment, which is a good thing. However the DHPs are no real guarantee, they may be stopped by the government in the future. There is nothing to say that they will go on forever.

"In any case, there are other families with disabled children, in other parts of the country, who don't get these payments. That in itself is completely unfair. A discretionary housing payment is just that - it is discretionary. The government ought to help families like ours with legislation. Life is hard enough looking after these children anyway. We had to fight very hard indeed to get the DHP in the first place."