Judgement to force changes to benefit rules
Housing benefit rules for private rented tenants discriminate against disabled people and will have to be changed, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
The Court of Appeal today found that the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, which restrict benefit according to property size, discriminate against disabled people because they do not allow an additional room to be paid for where two children cannot share because of disabilities. The ruling means the government will have to change the regulations.
They also discriminated against disabled people because they previously did not allow for an additional room for an overnight carer, although last April the government altered the regulations to address this.
Ian Burnip and the late Lucy Trengrove, both severely disabled, were denied benefit for an additional room for an overnight carer. They, or in Ms Trengrove’s case, a family member, both brought cases against the secretary of state for work and pensions, as well as Birmingham and Walsall Councils respectively.
In a third case, Richard Gorry brought a case against the secretary of state and Wiltshire Council after he was denied benefit for an extra room so that his severely disabled daughters did not have to share.
In his judgement, Mr Justice Henderson said: ‘I am satisfied maintenance of the single bedroom rules is not a fair or proportionate response to the discrimination which has been established in cases of the present type.’
The ruling was welcomed by the Child Poverty Action Group, which represented Mr Gorry.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said: ‘We welcome the fact that the court has recognised the unfairness of the housing benefit rules. This is a tremendous victory for the rights of disabled people and their children.’
Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented Mr Burnip, said the judgement has widespread implications for policymaking.
Polly Sweeney, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell said: ‘Whenever the government introduces new policies, or reviews existing policies, they now face a duty to ensure that appropriate provision is made for disabled people to ensure that discrimination does not occur.’
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘The government will carefully consider its response to the Court of Appeal judgement handed down today.’
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