Dewsbury couple win spare bedroom housing benefit fight

From BBC News:
A couple from West Yorkshire who went to court to challenge a cut to their housing benefit have won their case.

Ann and Kevin Gresham

Kevin and Ann Gresham live in a two-bedroom flat in Dewsbury. It has been adapted for wheelchair use as Mrs Gresham has a disability.

Under the government’s new housing rules the couple were deemed to have a surplus bedroom and their housing benefit was reduced by 14%.

Now a judge has ruled the couple shouldn’t lose the money or move.

The flat was allocated to the couple three years ago by Kirklees Council because of its accessibility.

‘Punishing me’
However, the couple were told to move to a one-bedroom flat or lose part of their housing benefit.

Mr Gresham said: “It wasn’t right, they’re punishing Ann for breaking her back and punishing me for having to give up work to look after her.”

He said the new system was “flawed”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “Ending the spare room subsidy was necessary in order to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control.”

The judge’s statement last week said the scope for finding a one-bedroom flat big enough for two beds and disabled equipment was “slim” and allowed the couple’s appeal.

The council or the DWP could appeal against the decision.

The DWP said it had made £345m of payments available to councils to help the most vulnerable cases and money was specifically earmarked for disabled people living in specially-adapted accommodation.

The spare room subsidy officially known as the under-occupancy penalty, and dubbed the bedroom tax by critics, was introduced in April 2013.

If tenants are deemed to have one spare room, the amount of rent eligible for housing benefit is cut by 14%. Those with two or more spare bedrooms have reductions of 25%.

More than half of tenants affected by a housing benefit cut in England are struggling to pay the additional rent, according to an official report released in July.

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