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Judicial Review Finds Council Disability and Housing Benefit Policy Unlawful

Our Public Law solicitors helped a disabled couple successfully challenge Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council’s policy of including disability benefits when assessing income for housing support.

Our clients, Mr and Mrs Hardy had lived in their current home for 20 years, both receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA). They were surprised to see that their housing benefit was reduced because of the ‘bedroom tax’, which effectively penalised them for having a spare bedroom.

While they were happy to move to a smaller property to offset this, there was a lack of suitable accommodation in their area. Because of this, they had to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to meet the costs of living in their current home.

Sandwell Council’s policy meant that because Mr and Mrs Hardy received the care component of DLA, they were only entitled to a small amount for a DHP, which left them unable to cover their rent using the DHP alone.

Ultimately, this forced them to use their Disability Living Allowance – which was supposed to be reserved for their disability-related care needs – to meet their housing costs. This meant they did not have the money to pay for the care they needed. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is provided to disabled individuals to assist with additional costs of living related to their care and mobility. The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) is a benefit provided to help with housing costs.

Our Public Law team launched a judicial review of Sandwell Council’s policy of taking into account the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as income when assessing applications for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).

In a judgement handed down by Mr Justice Phillips of the High Court, Sandwell Council’s policy was ruled as unlawful, amounting to a breach of the Equality Act of 2010, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

Justice Phillips went on to say that the policy put into place by Sandwell Council was an example of indirect discrimination, giving rise to unfair treatment for disabled applicants as their disability-related income would be treated the same as income not related to their disability.

Fiona McGhie, who acted on behalf of Mr and Mrs Hardy, said “The ruling given is an important step forward that recognises how the existing council policy simply failed to consider how disabled people would be adversely affected by the treatment of the care component of DLA as income, and we are delighted to have helped them succeed in their challenge”.

Our Public Law solicitors can help you challenge decisions made by councils and local authorities. Please see our Judicial Review page for more information.

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