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When changes to the welfare system were introduced in April 2013, the government increased the funding to the Discretionary Housing Payments budget by £30 million. Discretionary Housing Payments are available to people who need assistance with meeting their housing costs, usually as a result of the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’.
Our client, Mr L of Derby, lives in a two bedroom property and suffers from kidney failure. The second bedroom in his property was specially adapted by Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust to connect plumbing works directly from Mr L’s bathroom into the spare room. The room is used solely as a dialysis room and contains all the dialysis equipment that Mr L needs to perform dialysis at home.
However, because the dialysis room is labelled as a bedroom, Mr L is subjected to the ‘bedroom tax’, otherwise known as the spare room subsidy, and his housing benefit would not cover his rent on the property.
Mr L applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment to meet the shortfall in his rent each month. He was informed by Derby City Council that he was ineligible for a payment because he had already had his council tax banding reduced due to adaptations made to the property.
How Irwin Mitchell Helped
Irwin Mitchell advised that this policy was likely to amount to disability discrimination and that Mr L was being penalised as a result of his disability. Following Irwin Mitchell’s assistance, Derby City Council has confirmed that it has changed its policy in relation to Discretionary Housing Payments and now it will not reject applications where the applicant has had a reduction in their council tax banding due to disability-related adaptations. It has advised that it has also revisited all applications that were rejected on this basis before this change of policy.
Mr L said: "I hope that other disabled people in a similar position to me are helped by this change of policy decision of Derby City Council. I was surprised that Derby City Council adopted a policy that appeared to be discriminatory and unlawful. However, thanks to Irwin Mitchell’s representations, this matter has been brought to a successful conclusion".
For expert advice on matters relating to Discretionary Housing Payments and how to challenge a refusal of a Discretionary Housing Payment, please contact Fiona McGhie of Irwin Mitchell's public law team on 0370 1500 100 or complete our enquiry form.
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