Whitwell: Campaigners vow to fight on after losing bedroom tax appeal

General view of the High Court on the Strand, London.
General view of the High Court on the Strand, London.

A disabled Whitwell man has lost a High Court challenge over bedroom tax which could see him become homeless.

Richard Rourke, of Bakestone Moor, was among a group of people who say the Government’s welfare reform changes are a violation of their human rights.

The new policy, which came into effect in April, means people in social housing deemed to under-occupy their homes have seen their benefit cut by 14 to 25 per cent.

Lawyers for the 10 families, which include disabled adults or children, challenged the changes during a three-day hearing in May.

And last week they have vowed to continue their fight after losing part of their High Court battle.

Their lawyers argued the benefit cuts hit them disproportionately hard and were therefore discriminatory. Some argued that the additional bedrooms were needed for medical equipment or, in the case of some of the children, because behavioural problems made it impossible to share a room.

Mr Rourke, who uses a wheelchair, lives in a specially-adapted three bedroom bungalow. His step-daughter, who suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, is currently away at university but returns homes for holiday periods.

His lawyer’s say he uses the third bedroom - an 8ft by 9ft room - for storing essential mobility equipment.

Two High Court judges said the law needed to be amended to protect disabled children and criticised the Government for failing to make the necessary changes.

But they dismissed claims the changes breached human rights legislation and said that applying the cap to disabled people was based on ‘a reasonable foundation’ and was lawful.

Richard Stein from the human rights team at Leigh Day, which represents Mr Rourke, said: “This is a most disappointing result. We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal. Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are pleased to learn that the court has found in our favour and agreed that we have fulfilled our equality duties to disabled people. Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential, so the taxpayer does not pay for people’s extra bedrooms.”