4 March 2013 | By Rhiannon Burty, Inside Housing
Ten disabled and vulnerable children have launched legal proceedings against work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith to fight penalties for the under-occupation of social housing.
Judicial review proceedings were issued to the High Court on Friday on behalf of the children, who claim the new regulations have failed to take proper account of the needs of vulnerable children and are discriminatory.
The changes, which are due to come in from 1 April, will cut housing benefit for working-age social housing tenants if they are deemed to have spare rooms. Under the criteria to be used by the Department for Work and Pensions, two children under the age of 16 who are the same gender are required to share a room, and those under the age of 10 should share a room regardless of gender.
All ten of the children will be expected to share a bedroom with their siblings, but all of them have been assessed as needing their own bedrooms. This is due to their disabilities, or because they are at risk of violence from a sibling, or because of the trauma they have experienced as a result of abuse and domestic violence.
The ten children include one with down’s syndrome, three with autism, and one with genetic condition joubert’s syndrome. Four of the children have been settled in their current accommodation having fled serious domestic violence and abuse.
Rebekah Carrier, the solicitor acting for the claimant children and their parents, said: ‘These changes will have a catastrophic impact on our clients and many thousands more vulnerable children and adults. Experts have assessed my clients as being unable to share a room with their siblings.
‘The government is advising these families to consider taking in a lodger to make up the financial shortfall, but this is a ludicrous suggestion. None of these families have a spare room available because the rooms are already being used It is also very surprising that the government is advising families with disabled children, and children suffering trauma following serious abuse, to invite a stranger into their home.’
The High Court has been asked to list the cases for an urgent hearing.