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

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
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

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine