Families win housing benefit ruling over disabled needs

 

Three families have won an important legal ruling that the extra
needs of disabled adults and children must be factored into housing
benefit.

They brought proceedings against their local authorities and the Department for Work and Pensions, because their housing benefit did not cover their housing needs.

They argued that the rules discriminated against them because they were left in a worse position than the able-bodied.

The Court of Appeal said today that the regulations did discriminate against the disabled, because they did not allow for an additional room to be paid for where someone had a carer - or where two children could not share.

The proceedings involved the private rented sector, rather than the social rented sector, where people are allocated property on the basis of their assessed housing needs, including needs resulting from disability.

Two of the cases were brought by Ian Burnip and Lucy Trengove, whose action was pursued after her death in December 2011 by her mother, Rebecca.

Both needed overnight carers in their flats, but their housing benefit was quantified by reference to the one-bedroom rate which would apply to able-bodied tenants.

The third case involved Richard Gorry - two of whose three children have Down's Syndrome and spina bifida respectively and for whom it would be inappropriate to share a bedroom as able-bodied sisters would be expected to do.

The family has a four-bedroomed house but housing benefit is provided by reference to the three-bedroomed rate which would apply if the girls were not disabled.

Since the litigation began, the rules have been amended to cover the circumstances of Mr Burnip and Ms Trengove, but not that of Mr Gorry.

Heading a panel of three judges, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, vice president of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, said that the Secretary of State had failed to establish objective and reasonable justification for the discriminatory effect of the statutory criteria.

He said: "Disability can be expensive. It can give rise to needs which do not attach to the able-bodied and Ian Burnip and the late Lucy Trengove provide stark examples".

Mr Burnip's solicitor, Polly Sweeney, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said later: "This judgment has widespread implications for policy-making and is crucial to promoting equality for disabled people and assisting them to live independently.

"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."

Mr Burnip's mother Linda, who set up the Local Housing Allowance Reform Group to campaign for changes in the system, said: "Winning this case reinforces disabled people's right to not be discriminated against within the benefits system and also affirms their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

"We hope that the case will help other disabled people who feel that they have been discriminated by government policies and law".

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, which represented Richard Gorry, 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.

"In this case it was clearly not possible for two children, one with spina bifida and another with Down Syndrome, to share a single bedroom 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.

"Disabled people and their families and carers are being assaulted by a series of unjust and arbitrary cuts. This ruling goes some way to mitigating the effects of the cuts, but children and adults are still being made the unfair target of the coalition's austerity agenda."

John Wadham, general counsel for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said it was a "common sense ruling".

"Our intervention in the Burnip case has helped to ensure that all disabled people claiming housing benefit do not face indirect discrimination.

"If it was not for the Human Rights Act, disabled people may be more likely fall into rent arrears because they cannot afford the home that meets their needs and then face eviction.

"The rulings underline our analysis of the Government's 2010 spending review, published yesterday, which looked at potential effects of those decisions on women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

"It calls for the development of a common model of analysis to predict the likely equality effects of policy and earlier use of the equality duties to ensure better targeting of funds and greater value for money."

PA

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice