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Bedroom tax inflicted on disabled child

Family of 14-year-old told to pay up because only adults get exemptions, but vow to keep fighting

THE disabled grandparents of a child who cannot walk, talk or feed himself vowed to fight on yesterday after a High Court ruling said they would have to pay the bedroom tax - as he isn't old enough to be exempted.

Paul and Susan Rutherford, from Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire, are full-time carers to 14-year-old Warren, who suffers from Potocki-Shaffer Syndrome, which affects brain, bone and organ development.

The regulations, which have been branded unjust and draconian by opponents, force housing benefit recipients to pay extra for "spare" rooms in council housing.

An exemption is allowed if the claimant or their partner requires overnight care, but there is no provision for children.

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.

Rejecting the family's application for a judicial review, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said a discretionary government housing grant would make up the difference until April 2015 and that, assuming the scheme remained, there was no evidence to suggest Pembrokeshire council would refuse to make up the shortfall in future.

He said the Rutherfords were not financially disadvantaged by the intended and actual operation of the scheme and that none of the detriments which had been suggested would have an "unreasonable discriminatory effect."

It had not been presented as a "test" case and the evidence for such a case was lacking, he added.

Child Poverty Action Group solicitor Mike Spencer, who represented the couple, 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."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions welcomed the ruling.

"We have made £345 million available to councils since the reforms were introduced to help vulnerable families who may need extra support," he said.

"The removal of the spare room subsidy is a fair and necessary reform. It will give families in overcrowded accommodation hope of finding an appropriately sized property and helps bring the housing benefit bill under control."

paddym@peoples-press.com

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