Mr and Mrs Rutherford have had a mighty battle to fight for just over a year now and they vow to continue. They argue that the Housing Benefit Regulations are discriminatory and that they are being penalised.{jcomments on}

They learned on 30th May that although their case was arguable, the application for judicial review was dismissed. The Judge decided that the discretionary housing payment made in this case to cover the reduction to their benefit ‘plugs the gap’ and therefore the scheme does not expose them to discrimination or detriment.

Just over a year ago, Mr Rutherford contacted Sangeeta Enright, a Welfare Benefits Adviser, through the Grandparents Legal Centre as they had been notified by their local Council of the decision to cut their Housing Benefit by 14%.

Although the Rutherfords have an ‘extra’ bedroom, it has a very important and special purpose. They care for their 14 year old Grandson, Warren. He was born with a rare genetic condition which means that he requires care throughout the day and the night. The room is used to store Warren’s equipment and for carers to use when they stay overnight at least twice a week.

The policy is widely known as the ‘bedroom tax’ or if you support it, a charge for over-occupying your Social Housing. The rules do not allow for an additional bedroom for a child’s carer, although they do for an adult with the same needs.

The Rutherfords appealed their decision and claimed a discretionary housing payment to cover the shortfall. They were eventually awarded the time limited top-up payment, but not immediately as the household’s Disability Living Allowance (paid for disability-related costs) was wrongly assessed as being disposable income.

Their story was soon catapulted into the mainstream news and the family won support from many campaigners, The Mirror and The Papworth Trust. A short film broadcast on the BBC can be seen here. Mr Rutherford strongly believed that this case could have implications for others in similar situations and decided to challenge the discriminatory effect of the new Housing Benefit rules, by way of judicial review.

The case was taken up by Mike Spencer from CPAG . Tom Royston of Garden Court North chambers and Richard Drabble QC of Landmark Chambers were instructed.

Sangeeta went to the Royal Courts of Justice for the hearing on 14thMay to support the couple and to watch the proceedings. The details of the law were carefully examined and the arguments were reasoned and explained for Mr Justice Stuart-Smith to consider. He closed the Court hearing that day after stating that he would keep at the forefront of his mind that at the heart of this case is ‘Warren who is a grievously disabled child’.

Mike Spencer made a plea outside court that afternoon in an interview

“If they are not protected from the bedroom tax then Warren may have to go into a care home, the cost of which to the taxpayer would dwarf the amount needed to exempt the carer’s room from the bedroom tax. This is one of those cases where we are really just asking for common sense and fairness to prevail.”

As news of the judgment spread last week, CPAG released their statement stating that they will be appealing further.

The Rutherfords told Sangeeta they were fighting for this for Warren and for all those disadvantaged in the same way. We hugely admire their bravery and courage for taking on this battle. We hope that common sense will eventually prevail and the uncertainty over the future will be lifted for them.

The Judgment can be found here

A legal analysis by Giles Peaker can be found here


Write comments...
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.

We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.