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Supreme Court upholds Rutherford challenge on bedroom tax

Wednesday 9th November 2016

Today the Supreme Court has dismissed the government's appeal against the Rutherford family's successful challenge to the bedroom tax in the Court of Appeal.

The Rutherfords challenged the decision to cut their housing benefit under the 'bedroom tax' or 'spare room subsidy' rules. They argued successfully at the Court of Appeal that they needed an extra bedroom as their severely disabled grandson required an overnight carer. The Court of Appeal found that the bedroom tax rules unlawfully discriminated against disabled children who needed overnight care.

The government decided to appeal this decision, but today the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal and unanimously agreed that not allowing an extra bedroom to a child who needs an overnight carer is 'manifestly without reason'.

Marian Gell, welfare adviser at Contact a Family, says:

"The Supreme Court's decision today makes it crystal clear that the bedroom tax discriminates against families who need overnight care for their disabled child.

"Many of the families we support have children with high care needs through the night. Overnight carers enable parents to get a vital night's sleep, and without them some would reach breaking point and may consider residential care, at a substantial extra cost to taxpayers. We urge the government to issue guidance as soon as possible so families in a similar position to the Rutherfords are exempt from the bedroom tax.

"The reality is that for families with disabled children, 'spare rooms' are anything but - they are often essential in caring for a disabled child. We want to see all families with disabled children exempt from bedroom tax rules. As well as being unfair to families who need an extra room for an overnight carer, they also affect those who need to store lifesaving equipment or vital supplies, which are delivered in bulk, and families that need a safe or quiet room for their disabled child.

"Families needing an additional room due to reasons connected to their child's disability should not be penalised for it. They should receive help with the costs of that additional room as a right and not have to rely on a discretionary form of support."

We hope that the Department for Work and Pensions will move quickly to amend the housing benefit rules in light of today's decision.

We will keep you updated about the ruling and what it means for families as more information becomes available.

helpline survery 2016