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Bedroom tax judicial review fails

A recent Judicial Review of the bedroom tax, supported by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has failed.  This Judicial Review was brought on the grounds that the policy was discriminatory as it does not allow for an additional bedroom where a child with disabilities needs overnight care.  The judgment stresses the importance of the proper use of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to plug the gap left by cuts to housing benefit.

Additional bedroom required for carer of child with disabilities

This case, Rutherford & Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, was brought by a family of a 14 year old boy named Warren.  Warren suffers from profound mental and physical disabilities caused by a serious and rare genetic disorder and needs round the clock care.

The property, in which Warren lives with his grandparents, is a 3-bedroom property owned by Pembrokeshire Housing Association.  It has been adapted twice for Warren’s needs. A carer stays at the property twice a week to provide respite care for Warren.  This carer stays in the third bedroom.

Warren’s grandparents were subject to a 14% cut to their eligible rent.  They applied for a DHP.  This application was initially rejected, but awarded to the family after considerable media pressure.  A DHP was awarded for the 2013/2014 year and has been confirmed for 2014/2015.

Discrimination justifiable as long as DHPs continue to “plug the gap”

The judge examined the award of DHPs and found that these provided adequate assurance that the Rutherford family did not suffer any financial detriment as a result of the bedroom tax.  This decision was based on a number of facts:

  • The Court of Appeal, in MA and Ors V Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, found that although the bedroom tax did discriminate, this discrimination was justifiable because of the availability of DHPs to assist people affected by the policy.
  • The amount of money allocated thus far to the DHP fund has proved sufficient to address the needs of people affected by the policy
  • Although DHPs are discretionary, the Good Practice Guide identified those living in adapted accommodation, like the Rutherfords, as a priority for these payments
  • The Rutherfords have not suffered any financial detriment as a result of the policy as the DHP covered and continues to cover the shortfall in full.

The Rutherford family plan to seek an appeal of this decision.  

Tagged In

Welfare Reform, Case law, Affordability, Legal

This article was written on 4 June 2014. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.