Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Appeal plans axed following bedroom tax changes

The government has ditched plans to appeal a legal ruling concerning a housing benefit claim for disabled children following changes to its ‘bedroom tax’ announced yesterday.

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued an urgent bulletin saying it will not take its appeal over the ‘Gorry versus Wiltshire Council’ case to the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal ruled in May last year the local housing allowance size criteria discriminated against the Gorry family on grounds of disability.

One child had spina bifida and the other had Down’s Syndrome. The court ruled children with severe disability could not always be expected to share a bedroom because of additional needs they may have due to their disability.

Housing benefit rules state children under the age of 10 should share a room regardless of gender, and those under the age of 16 should share if they are the same sex. The Gorry case related to a claim for housing benefit to cover private rented sector costs, but the same size criteria will be used for the social housing sector under the ‘bedroom tax’, which comes in from 1 April.

This will reduce housing benefit payments for social housing tenants of working age who are deemed to be under-occupying. Yesterday work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced exemptions for foster carers and parents of members of the armed forces. He also said guidance would make it clear that councils should use discretionary payments to support families with severely disabled children.

The urgent bulletin, released yesterday, said: ‘The secretary of state has today clarified the position regarding disabled children and has decided not to pursue the appeal further.

‘This means that from the date of the Court of Appeal judgement on 15 May 2012, local authorities should allow an extra bedroom for children who are unable to share because of their severe disabilities.’

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: ‘This is a tremendous victory for disabled children and it’s a victory for common sense.

‘In the case Child Poverty Action Group represented, it was clearly not possible for a child with spina bifida and another with Down’s Syndrome to share a bedroom together 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.’

A spokesperson for the DWP said: ‘It was always our intention that foster carers and armed forces personnel would be covered by discretionary housing payments and therefore not affected. We will now adjust the regulations to give greater certainty that these families will retain their entitlement to a spare bedroom.’

Readers' comments (23)

  • I am reminded of a John Cleese 'Fawlty Towers' quip about his wife's specialist Mastermind subject - The Bleedin' Obvious.

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  • "He also said guidance would make it clear that councils should use discretionary payments to support families with severely disabled children."

    Although this is being seen as a change to the bedroom tax, they haven't changed the rules. What IDS has done is make Discretionary Housing Payments pick up the tab instead. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there isn't likely to be enough DHP to go around anyway, so what happens when the money run out? On current form, the Government will undoubtedly point to local authorities and blame them for failing to manage their DHP budgets effectively.

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  • Jude McKenzie

    Ah it's great to see our caring, sharing government in action, they have kindly agreed not to appeal it; such humanitarians!

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  • Phil: Is it only me wondering how the government are going to square the circle whereby the DISCRECTIONARY fund SHOULD,as opposed to may, to be used for certain groups?
    I was always taught that discretion was just that and should not be fettered by policy? AJR's all round?

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  • Chris

    And what will happen when the discretionary allowance runs out - will tenants have to take their government back to court, at tremendous expense, again just to achieve what should have been common sense?

    Why is this government wasting so much taxpayers money fighting court cases that should never have been needed, if only they had thought about the consequences of their policy 'ideas'. There is a due process for setting public policy - throwing this all out as 'so much red tape' is costing us a fortune, and permitting destructive policies from a half baked government into statute.

    Perhaps if the opposition were fit for the job things would not be quite as bad, but it appears not only are Labour not fit to govern, they are not even fit to be an opposition. Could a means of mending our society be to expel all current politicians from office, and replace them with ones who are not so self focussed?

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  • On further reading, it appears the decsion in relation to sharing a room when a child has disabilities gives the discretion to to the LA to award an extra room . Once this decison is reached, the award comes from the regular HB fund not the DHP fund. Interestingly this being a size criteria directive it also applies to LHA rates in the private sector

    "11 The judgment applies to both the LHA size criteria and the reduction of the spare room subsidy which applies from 1 April 2013."
    HB/CTB U2/2013

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  • Tory bullies picking on the weakest in society ,nothing new then.So who will build these smaller homes?who`s going to finance it and how long will it take?

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  • Such a shame - HA's are so weak that a parent with two disabled children has achieved what they couldn't.

    They have billions in assetts and billions in income and yet are so weak ............

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  • So who will build these smaller homes? For many years Britain has been building the wrong type of housing. Developers are one of the main obstacles, land price another. There would be small need for 2/3 bed houses as the population in the UK grows older if only developers built 1 bed bungalows and quality 1 bed units with a small garden, not just flats, for the younger population. Yet, this is only a dream as it would hit developer’s profits.

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  • Chris

    In London, at the time the Tories were fomulating the best way to exploit the poor and at the same time make their friends even richer, there was a glut of private 2-bed homes. Against that context it all starts to make sense. Export the poor out of social housing (they can't afford to buy it) so a better class of person can be moved in, given a large chunk of taxpayer cash and hey-presto, another 'scarce social asset privatised. Meanwhile, those undeserving poor can move into the developers spare properties, ensuring them a great return, again all funded by the taxpayer.

    Tory logic at its usual.

    However, again as usual, they forgot to see if their plan could still work and failed to notice that the developer glut was not in built property but in land-banks, and nobody short of the Bullingdon Old School had the readies to purchase a home, even with a sizeable taxpayer bung. Hence the mess, and hence all the sops to developers to get the money through to them by other means, before the HB bill can be fully tapped for their own uses.

    And all the while Labour sit and nod, and work out ways to be even better Tories!

    Time to throw the money-lenders out of our temple (again!)

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