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Bedroom tax: Fighting for the rights of disabled children

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Bedroom tax: Fighting for the rights of disabled children

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

Bedroom tax: Fighting for the rights of disabled children Bedroom tax: Fighting for the rights of disabled children

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has launched a legal challenge to the bedroom tax on behalf of the Rutherford family. Here the charity explains why this particular case stands a better chance than recent failed challenges.

CPAG is acting for Paul and Susan Rutherford and their grandson Warren in a judicial review challenge to the bedroom tax. The case concerns the housing benefit restrictions for social tenants introduced in April 2013, which we argue discriminate unlawfully against disabled children who need overnight care.

Warren, who is aged 13, suffers from Potokoi-Shaffer Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder which causes him grave cognitive and physical disabilities. He requires 24 hour care by at least two people at all times.

His grandparents, who both suffer from disabilities themselves, struggle to look after him alone and need the help of two paid carers who can stay overnight at least twice a week. The family live in a three-bedroom bungalow that has been specially adapted to meet Warren’s needs. Paul and Susan share one room, Warren sleeps in another and the third room is needed for the carers to stay overnight and to store Warren’s equipment. Without the help of overnight carer workers Warren would have to be put into residential care, at substantial extra cost to his local authority.

As a result of the restrictions on the size criteria [bedroom tax] for social tenants, introduced in April 2013, the family have been deemed to be “under-occupying” and their housing benefit has been reduced. The regulations currently allow for an additional bedroom if the claimant or their partner “require overnight care”, following the decision of the Court of Appeal in Burnip v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

However, there is no provision for children who need an overnight carer. We are arguing that this discriminates against disabled children contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that there is no rational justification for the exclusion of children from the exemption for overnight carers.

CPAG's solicitor Michael Spencer said: "Paul and Sue Rutherford work round the clock to care for their severely disabled grandson Warren. Without carers who can stay overnight they just wouldn't be able to cope and Warren would have to go into care, at substantial cost to the taxpayer. It simply doesn't make sense that the law allows an extra bedroom for adults who need overnight care, but not for disabled children."

The case can be distinguished from the 10 judicial review claims dismissed earlier this year (MA v Others [2013] EWHC 2213 (QB)) and now on appeal to the Court of Appeal, as none of the claimants in that case were disabled children who need an overnight carer.

Judicial review proceedings were issued in the High Court on 24 September 2013. Counsel is Tom Royston of Garden Court North Chambers. The hearing will take place on 14 May 2014.

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