Severely disabled child's grandparents lose High Court bedroom tax battle and the Government says it's 'pleased'
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 from Pembrokeshire 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.
Their case centres around housing benefit restrictions for social tenants introduced a year ago, which they argue discriminates, unlawfully, against disabled children who need overnight care.
The family challenged the benefit restrictions which allows an exemption for disabled adults in the same situation.
Warren, suffers from Potokoi-Shaffer Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder which means he is unable to walk or talk, cannot feed himself, and is doubly incontinent.
He requires 24 hour care by at least two people at all times. His grandparents struggle to look after him alone and need the help of two paid carers who can stay overnight at least twice a week.Paul and Susan Rutherford who are full-time carers to their grandson, Warren.
The family live in a three-bedroom bungalow in Clunderwen, purpose-built for Warren’s needs. However, as a result of the restrictions on the size criteria in social tenants, introduced last April, the family have been deemed to be “under-occupying”.
The regulations currently allow for an additional bedroom if the claimant or their partner “require overnight care”, following a previous ruling in the Court of Appeal However, there is no provision for children who need a carer
Represented by the Child Poverty Action Group they took their fight to the High Court earlier this month.
Today, Judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith dismissed their judicial review claim, relying on the fact that the family have been granted a discretionary housing payment (DHP) 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 cares for his grandchild Warren, who is disabled.
Speaking from their home in Clunderwen, Mr Rutherford, 56, said they were disappointed by the judgment and argued that his family’s fight ‘very hard indeed’ to get a discretionary housing payment and carers of disabled children should not have to fight for help.
“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.”
A DWP spokesman said: “We are pleased that the courts have once again found in our favour and agreed our policy is lawful.
“We have made £345m available to councils since the reforms were introduced to help vulnerable families who may need extra support.
“The removal of the spare room subsidy is a fair and necessary reform. It will give families in overcrowded accommodation hope of finding an appropriately sized property and help bring the housing benefit bill under control.”