DWP bids to overturn housing benefit ruling on spare rooms
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Legal, Local Government
Court of Appeal rules housing associations ARE public bodies
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is bidding to overturn a Court of Appeal (CoA) decision which ruled that the size criteria in the housing benefit regulations discriminate against disabled people.
Last month the CoA said the regulations were discriminatory, because they do not allow for an additional room to be paid for where a disabled person has a carer, or where two children cannot share a room because of disability.
Independently of the court case, the Government has amended the rules to recognise that some people need an additional room for an overnight carer who lives elsewhere. Those changes came into effect in April last year.
However, following the decision in one of the three cases - considered together by the court - it is now under pressure to amend the regulations for families with disabled children.
The crucial case concerned that of Mr Richard Gorry - represented by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) - who has two disabled daughters who cannot share a room because of the nature of their disabilities. The family could only claim for a three bedroom home, so the two disabled children would have to share a bedroom. Their disabilities, argued Mr Gorry, made this impossible.
Alison Garnham, the Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said last month: “In this case it was clearly not possible for two children, one with Spina Bifida and another with Down Syndrome, to share a single bedroom 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.
“Disabled people and their families and carers are being assaulted by a series of unjust and arbitrary cuts. This ruling goes some way to mitigating the effects of the cuts, but children and adults are still being made the unfair target of the Coalition’s austerity agenda.”
Sarah Clarke, a solicitor at the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said pending the Government's appeal decision, the ruling will have ramifications for the size criteria being introduced in the social sector next April.
Under current plans around 670,000 social tenants - two-thirds containing a disabled family member - face losing an average of £13 per week because they are deemed to have one or more additional bedrooms.
She said: "It will affect it, but at the moment they could still appeal. It will only be people that have a disability that means they can't share a room. It will depend on the facts. It won't be a large number of claimants. The court said it effects a small group of people."
The Government is understood to be disappointed by the ruling, given that the Upper Tribunal had previously held that the provision made by way of housing benefit was not discriminatory when viewed as part of the wider range of social security benefits available to people with disabilities.
A DWP spokesperson said: "We have made an application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and a response from the Court is awaited."