May 152012

Press release

Experts Say Landmark Judgement Will Stop Benefit System Discriminating Against Disabled

 Leading Lawyer Says Court of Appeal Ruling Confirms Government Has to Give Special Provision To Disabled People So That Human Rights Are Not Breached

Experts at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed a landmark judgement handed down at the Court of Appeal today which they say sets out clear guidance to ensure that disabled people are not discriminated against by the Government’s benefit system.

Three families challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (DWP) which stated that local authorities could not provide housing benefit for extra bedrooms needed by four young disabled people who were living in private rented accommodation.

Public law experts at Irwin Mitchell, representing the lead case, said DWP breached the British Human Rights law by not allowing their housing benefit claims to be treated differently to those of non-disabled people, which would have given them the extra provision needed.

And their view was backed by the Court, who ruled that “without the benefit of the extra room rate, Ian Burnip would be left in a worse position than an able bodied person living alone”.

Polly Sweeney, Solicitor for Ian Burnip at Irwin Mitchell said, “This Judgment has widespread implications for policy-making and is crucial to promoting equality for disabled people and assisting them to live independently. Whenever the Government introduces new policies, or reviews existing policies, they now face a duty to ensure that appropriate provision is made for disabled people to ensure that discrimination does not occur.“

The Court recognised that the object of Ian Burnip’s claim was not to give him some form of preferential treatment, but merely to ensure that housing benefit can fulfil its intended function for those who are so severely disabled that they need 24 hour care.

Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Vice President of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, said in his Judgment that:

“Disability can be expensive. It can give rise to needs which do not attach to the able-bodied and Ian Burnip and the late Lucy Trengove provide stark examples”.

Specialists at the firm say today’s judgement will have a huge impact on discrimination in the benefits system, and will ensure that the Government now ensures there is a appropriate provision when considering disabled people’s needs.

In the lead case, Ian Burnip, represented by Irwin Mitchell, was told by Birmingham City Council that he could not claim local housing allowance (LHA) to cover an extra bedroom he needed for an overnight care worker.

A second case involved Rebecca Trengove whose daughter Lucy, who has since sadly passed away, was unable to secure the LHA she needed for an extra room for an overnight care worker from Walsall Council.

During the course of the Appeal process, the local housing allowance rules on extra bedrooms were changed by the Government and, since April 2011, extra LHA is now given to disabled people who need a bedroom for an overnight care worker.

However, a third case heard by the Court of Appeal was not affected by the coalition’s new rules. Richard Gorry, the father of two disabled children, one who has a physical impairment and the other who has autism, wanted Wiltshire County Council to provide enough LHA for his children to have separate bedrooms. This ruling will now ensure that he is awarded a rate of housing benefit which reflects his daughters’ accepted needs to sleep in separate rooms and ensure that they can afford to live in adequate and suitable housing.

The Court of Appeal found that discrimination had occurred in all three cases and that their human rights had been breached even though the appropriate provisions being sought for the disabled people required additional public expenditure.

Ian Burnip’s mother Linda, who set up the Local Housing Allowance Reform Group to campaign for changes in the system, said: “Winning this case reinforces disabled people’s right to not be discriminated against within the benefits system and also affirms their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We hope that the case will help other disabled people who feel that they have been discriminated by government policies and law”.


  Contact Details:

PR Officer

Irwin Mitchell Press Office: 01142744666


Irwin Mitchell


Irwin Mitchell celebrates its centenary this year and is one of the largest law firms in the UK. The firm employs more than 2100 staff and has more than 150 Partners helping over 200,000 clients a year. There are offices in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield as well as a consulting office in Leicester and two offices in Spain. For more information visit

The firm won an award for its innovative corporate strategy and was also named in the Industry Pioneers category at the annual ‘FT Innovative Lawyers’ awards in 2011. It was ranked in the Top 50 litigators in the world by The Lawyer magazine and in 2010 was named as one of the leading companies in the country for commitment to local communities in the prestigious Business in the Community’s (BITC) annual Corporate Responsibility Index.

Recognised in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 for a unique client-focused approach, Irwin Mitchell won the acclaimed Claimant Solicitor of the Year award (Rehabilitation Awards).

Other accolades include being listed among the top five Most Diverse Law firms in the UK by the Black Solicitors Network. The Legal Sector Alliance also found Irwin Mitchell to have the 2nd Lowest Carbon Footprint of any UK law firm.


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  8 Responses to “Experts Say Landmark Judgement Will Stop Benefit System Discriminating Against Disabled”

  1. Does this mean all the people being unfairly declared fit for work are going to be helped, or does it just refer to housing benefit?
    The situation is getting beyond ridiculous now, I have lots of friends who are clearly unable to work and can’t claim JSA as a result, who are losing their ESA and now having to rely on the charity of others to live. I’m just waiting for my medical where I will be told the same thing. I can’t believe they are getting away with this.

    • I am disabled myself on low ESA wish should be higher due to my condition and i ahve been turned done both for DLA and PIP i have cerebal pasly in both legs and a very serious braina nd nerve disorder which basically means my body is slowly dying from the inside on itself and doctors wont do a thing about it either just leaving me pain stricten donig tests on heart and a laod of other crap that it clearly isn’t maybe when i ahve no nerves left maybe then people will take notice of people like me and various other disabled peoples rights, this country is a mockery of the very laws it puts together to try and protect us disabled people, To answer your question Nancy sorry for the long windedness but jsut to let you know it jsut means bedroom tax, we are still getting no help and ia poligize if any grammer orspelling errors are in as one of theside effects of my condition is apraxia.

  2. why is it so hard to get simple things…… people need to live more independent, my son as been really ill ,lately,he as only one bed accommodation , I’m his mum main carer ,he need someone with him but no room ..who ever makes the decisions, should take on board how much isolation they are causes people with disabilities

  3. Hi does this mean that those of us who have had to live in accommodation to meet the needs of a disabled person (in my case two children both complex needs) and have had to top up the rent .In my case by 240 per month which has left us in a terrible position financially could we claim the money back that we have already paid out?? in my case nearly two years??

    In solidarity

    Wendy Wilson

    • hi Wendy, I don’t think you can claim any money back unless you have an appeal going already but if the legislation is changed in the near future it should mean you can get more money for an additional room in the future. Meanwhile you should be claiming Discretionary Housing Payments and this ruling should help with that. I will email you directly about that.

  4. This is great news.
    I’m wondering what repercussions it has for people currently falling through the net for the extra bedroom rule but who do need it on account of either wheelchair use or bulky medical equipment.
    There is a recognised need for extra space as people in these circumstances are entitled to a reduction in their council tax (or at least are at present, although I think that may be changed). However they are not given any help at all in the LHA system.
    Could this case be used to push for extending the extra bedroom rule to such people?

    • yes we hope that this ruling can now be used by people who need an extra bedroom for other reasons such as kidney dialysis as well as extra equipment. Until a legal challenge has been mounted around this we think at the very least that it should make give people more ammunition to argue for a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover such costs. We’d also urge anyone refused a DHP to seek a Judicial Review against the refusal if they can.

      • Hi Linda, I have just seen your comment about extra bedroom rate and would hope that in time something will come of this.

        I say this because as I am disabled and need a great deal of help, my partner also has to use a CPAP machine so that her breathing is maintained at night, but we cannot sleep in the same room because of the noise and cold air that it blows out.

        I contacted our local council to ask for extra help with the fact she has to sleep in the spare room and this was declined and after an appeal, was declined once again.

        Fingers crossed this will change but until then, I guess we all wait with baited breath.

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