Government loses disability benefit case in Appeal Court

Published on: 
15 May 2012

In a unanimous ruling, the Court of Appeal has held that the size criteria in the housing benefit regulations discriminate against disabled people, because they do not allow for an additional room to be paid for where a disabled person has a carer, or where two children cannot share a room because of disability.

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.”

Alison Garnham, the Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, which represented Richard Gorry (one of three cases considered together), said:

“We welcome the fact that the court has recognised the unfairness of the housing benefit rules. This is a tremendous victory for the rights of disabled people and their children.

“In this case it was clearly not possible for two children, one with Spina Bifida and another with Down Syndrome, to share a bedroom with such different demands and needs. It’s absolutely right that the housing benefit system should respond to challenges like this, and it is clear discrimination if it does not.

“Disabled people and their families and carers are being assaulted by a series of unjust and arbitrary cuts. This ruling goes some way to mitigating the effects of the cuts, but children and adults are still being made the unfair target of the Coalition’s austerity agenda.”

Notes to editors
  • The court of Appeal has given judgement today on the cases:

-Ian Burnip v (1) Birmingham City Council (2) Secretary of State for Work and  Pensions

-Lucy Trengove by her litigation friend, Rebecca Trengove v (1) Walsall Metropolitan Council (2) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

-Richard Gorry v (1) Wiltshire Council (2) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

  • Ian Burnip and Lucy Trengove are disabled people who need 24 hour care, which is provided by carers on shifts. Richard Gorry has two disabled daughters who cannot share a room because of the nature of their disabilities. These claimants brought this case against the local authorities who administered their benefits and against the Department for Work and Pensions, because their housing benefit did not cover their housing needs, and they were left to find the shortfall from their disability benefits . They 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.
  • Since the case began, the rules have been amended to cover the circumstances of Ian Burnip and Lucy Trengove, but not to cover the situation of Richard Gorry.
  • Richard Gorry was represented by Child Poverty Action Group, and counsel Richard Drabble QC and Tim Buley, both of Landmark Chambers.
  • Ian Burnip was represented by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors (contact: Press office on Irwin Mitchell Press Office: 0114 274 4666)
  • Lucy Trengove has very sadly died since the case began, and her appeal was pursued on her behalf by her mother. She was represented by Birmingham Law Centre (contact: Jan Jesson on 0121 766 7466).
  • All of the appellants had the shortfall partly made up from discretionary housing payments, but the court held this did not “come anywhere near providing an adequate justification for the discrimination in cases of the present type”.
  • One of the litigants may be willing to speak to journalists for print media and requests can be made through the CPAG press officer. Any decision to speak to the media remains at the litigant’s discretion on a case by case basis.
  • CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
  • CPAG is the host organisation for the Campaign to End Child Poverty, which has over 150 member organisations and is campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.

For further information please contact:

Tim Nichols

CPAG Press Officer

Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302

[email protected]