Grandparents lose ‘bedroom tax’ court battle

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The grandparents of a severely disabled teenager have vowed to fight on after a losing a legal challenge against the so-called “bedroom tax”.

Paul and Susan Rutherford care for 14-year-old Warren, who has a rare genetic disorder which means he is unable to walk, talk or feed himself and is doubly incontinent, at their home in Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire.

The family live in a three-bedroom bungalow, adapted for Warren’s needs, with the Rutherfords in one room, Warren in another, and the third needed for carers staying overnight and to store equipment.

They launched a judicial review over regulations, introduced in April last year, which have led to reductions in housing benefit payments to tenants in social housing who are under-occupying their accommodation.

The regulations allow for an additional bedroom if the claimant or their partner require overnight care but there is no provision for children.

Yesterday, after Mr Justice Stuart-Smith dismissed their case, Mike Spencer, solicitor for Child Poverty Action Group, which represented the couple, said they were bitterly disappointed with the outcome and would appeal.

The judge, sitting at London’s High Court, said that a discretionary housing payment made by Pembrokeshire County Council covered the rental shortfall until April 2015 and there was no evidence to suggest it would refuse to make up the shortfall in the future.

“Throughout the writing of this judgment I have kept at the forefront of my mind that Warren is grievously disabled and that his grandparents have undertaken a heavy responsibility and burden. The need to make an application for a discretionary housing payment is an additional burden.”

But he said it was not a substantial burden in the context of a a compelling social and political objective at a time of extreme national financial austerity and the fact that the Rutherfords had suffered no financial detriment and should not suffer any in the future.