Victory for disabled people – court of appeal rules that human rights must be factored into housing benefit
Victory for disabled people – Court of Appeal rules that human rights must be factored into housing benefit
Three cases have established that housing benefit must take into account the extra needs of disabled children and adults. The decision will stop disabled people and children from being evicted.
The three claimants, Ian Burnip, Lucy Trengrove and Richard Gorry, brought cases against their local authorities, (Birmingham, Walsal and Wiltshire respectively), who administered their benefits and against the Department for Work and Pensions, because their housing benefit did not cover their housing needs. This left the claimants with a shortfall which had to be paid from disability benefits. The claimants argued that the rules discriminated against them because they were treated worse than claimants who are not disabled, whose housing needs are met through the benefit system.
The court held the discretionary payments did not ‘come anywhere near providing an adequate justification for the discrimination in cases of the present type’.
Ian Burnip and the Lucy Trengrove are disabled people who need 24 hour care, provided by carers on shifts. Mr Burnip has carers 24 hours a day to help him as he is severely disabled. He only got housing benefit for a one bedroom flat, as that was all he was entitled to at the time, but needed a second bedroom for his carers to sleep in overnight. Lucy Trengrove was in a similar situation. She has very sadly died since the case began, and her appeal was pursued on her behalf by her mother.
The Court, who ruled that, ‘without the benefit of the extra room rate, Ian Burnip would be left in a worse position than an able bodied person living alone’”.
Two of the three siblings in the Gorry family are disabled – one has Down’s Syndrome, another has Spina Bifida. The family could only claim for a three bedroom home, so the two disabled children would have to share a bedroom. Their disabilities made this impossible. In his judgment, Mr Justice Henderson concludes:
‘I am satisfied that maintenance of the single bedroom rules is not a fair or proportionate response to the discrimination which has been established in cases of the present type, and that the defence of justification therefore fails.’
The government has already changed the regulations for calculating housing benefits for disabled adults, but will now have to change it for families with disabled children.
The court action by Richard Gorry was supported by Child Poverty Action Group. The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in the Ian Burnip’s case.