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Family with disabled child lose judicial review of ‘bedroom tax’ ruling

Grandparents say that they will appeal against judgment

Two grandparents caring for a severely disabled child hit by the "bedroom tax" have had their judicial review challenge dismissed by the High Court.

However, Paul and Susan Rutherford have stated that they will appeal against the judgment in Rutherford & Others v Secretary of State for Works and Pensions and Pembrokeshire County Council [2014] EWHC 1613 (Admin).

The couple look after their grandson, Warren, who is aged 13. He suffers from Potokoi-Shaffer Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder which causes him grave cognitive and physical disabilities. He requires 24 hour care by at least two people at all times. His grandparents, who both suffer from disabilities themselves, say that they need the help of two paid carers who can stay overnight at least twice a week. The family live in a 3-bedroom bungalow that has been specially adapted to meet Warren's needs. Paul and Susan share one room, Warren sleeps in another and the third room is needed for the carers to stay overnight and to store Warren's equipment. Without the help of overnight carer workers Warren would have to be put into residential care, at substantial extra cost to his local authority.

 The family are challenging housing benefit restrictions for social tenants, introduced last year, which charge families with disabled children who have a bedroom for overnight carers, even though there is an exemption for disabled adults in the same situation.  They are represented by the Child Poverty Action Group.  Mr Justice Stuart-Smith today dismissed their judicial review claim, relying on the fact that the family have been granted a discretionary housing payment from Pembrokeshire Council to cover the shortfall in rent for a year.

Mike Spencer the solicitor for the Child Poverty Action Group said:

"The Rutherfords are understandably very disappointed by today's ruling.  The Court has at least indicated that the local council should help pay the shortfall in Warren's rent, but ultimately families with severely disabled children should be entitled to the same exemption as disabled adults and not have to rely on uncertain discretionary payments.  Paul and Sue work round the clock to care for Warren and have the constant fear hanging over them that Warren might lose his home and have to go into care.  They will be seeking to appeal."

The judgment is here.