South West Wales

Family of disabled grandchild lose spare bedroom fight

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Media captionPaul and Susan Rutherford say they are disappointed by the court ruling

A couple who care for their severely disabled grandchild have lost an appeal against cuts to their housing benefits because they have a spare bedroom.

Susan and Paul Rutherford, of Pembrokeshire, argued the room was essential because it is used by carers who look after Warren, 14, overnight.

They claimed the £14 a week reduction to their benefits, described by critics as the "bedroom tax", was unlawful.

But a High Court judge dismissed their judicial review claim.

Warren suffers from a rare genetic disorder which means he is unable to walk or talk and cannot feed himself and needs 24-hour care.

The family's spare room is used by carers who sometimes stay overnight and to store all the medical equipment he needs there.

Disabled adults who need a spare room for carers are exempt from the benefit restriction, but the same does not apply for children.

The family, from Clunderwen, argued that was unfair and were seeking a change in the law.

'Constant fear'

But Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, sitting at the High Court in London, dismissed their challenge because they have been granted a discretionary housing payment from Pembrokeshire council to cover the shortfall for a year.

Mike Spencer, solicitor for Child Poverty Action Group representing the couple, said they were disappointed with the 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," he said.

"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 said it was pleased the court had found in its favour and agreed the policy was lawful.

"We have made £345m available to councils since the reforms were introduced to help vulnerable families who may need extra support," the spokesman 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 help bring the housing benefit bill under control."

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