Disabled children now exempt from the ‘bedroom tax’

Doughty Street barristers secure change to DWP policy.


The Government has amended its controversial ‘under-occupation penalty’ scheme, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax.’  Disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities will now be exempt from the scheme.

The change in policy follows two defeats in the courts for the Department of Work and Pensions on this issue over the past eighteen months: in May 2012 in the Gorry case (Court of Appeal), and again in July 2013 in the MA case (Divisional Court). In July 2013 the Divisional Court ordered that the Secretary of State had until 31st October 2013 to alter the rules.


On 31st October the Government made new Regulations exempting disabled children from the policy. The Secretary of State has informed the families’ solicitor that it is likely to be laid before Parliament on 7th November 2013 and come into force on 4th December 2013.


This is an important victory for the five families who challenged the Secretary of State in court, but also for the many thousands of affected families nationwide.

The five families are represented by Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors, and more detail is available here: Their cases were supported by the charities the National Autistic Society and Contact a Family.


However these changes do nothing to address the needs of other disabled people affected by the policy, including disabled adults who cannot share bedrooms with their partners and disabled adults who can’t move from their homes due to the nature of their disabilities or the suitability of their current properties.  An appeal against other aspects of the MA judgment is underway and will be heard by the Court of Appeal in January 2014.


In the Divisional Court Martin Westgate QC, Kate Markus, Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Ben Chataway acted for the claimants (adults and children).  On appeal, Martin Westgate QC and Kate Markus are representing a group of nine appellants; Caoilfhionn Gallagher acts on some specific issues relating to the disabled children.


There are three solicitors’ firms acting: Public Law Solicitors, Leigh Day and Hopkin Murray Beskine.


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