‘Bedroom Tax’ In High Court Today Over Disabled Children’s Care Needs
The Coalition government, will today (May 14th 2014) face another challenge against their controversial ‘bedroom tax’ housing policy.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) will represent Susan and Paul Rotherford on behalf of their severely disabled grandson, Warren, later today at the High Court (The Royal Court of Justice), in a judicial review challenge to the ‘bedroom tax’.
The case brought by CPAG, concerns the housing benefit restrictions for social tenants introduced in April 2013, which CPAG argue unlawfully discriminates against disabled children who need overnight care.
Warren, who is aged 13, suffers from Potokoi-Shaffer Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder that causes him significantly severe cognitive and physical disabilities. He requires continual 24-hour care by at least two people at all times.
He lives with his grandparents, who both suffer from disabilities themselves, and struggle to look after him, needing the help of two paid carers who stay overnight at least twice a week.
The family lives in a three bedroomed bungalow, which has been specially adapted, to meet Warren’s complex care needs. Susan and Paul share one room, with Warren having his own room.
The third bedroom is used for overnight stays by the carers as well as storing crucial equipment for Warren. Without the help of overnight carers, Warren would have to be put into residential care at substantial cost to the local authority.
Current bedroom tax regulations only 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.
Consequently, as there is no provision for children who need an overnight carer, as well as restrictions on the size criteria in social tenants, introduced in April 2013, the family have been deemed to be “under-occupying” and their housing benefit has been reduced.
CPAG argue 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.
Mike Spencer, Child Poverty Action Group’s solicitor, said:
“We are challenging the fairness of the law in only allowing an extra bedroom for adults who need overnight care, but not for disabled children.
“Paul and Sue Rutherford do a tremendous job caring for their disabled grandson Warren, but the severity of his disability means they cannot cope with his round-the-clock needs alone so the room for a carer is essential.
“If they are not protected from the bedroom tax then Warren may have to go into a care home, the cost of which to the taxpayer would dwarf the amount needed to exempt the carer’s room from the bedroom tax.
“This is one of those cases where we are really just asking for common sense and fairness to prevail.”
You can find out more background on this case here.
By Jenny Howarth (Additional content by CPAG and published with permission)