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A Narrow View of “Family”

January 5, 2013

Hillingdon Council sent me a lovely happy new year present the other day – their submission to the Social Security First Tier Tribunal. Hopefully, not setting the tone for my 2013, it comprised 80 odd pages, that took ages to read through and absorb.

I’m not going to go into detail again about why they cancelled my housing benefit as I’ve blogged about it elsewhere but basically they decided after four years of awarding it to me, that a month after Steven’s damages were awarded by the court, they needed to review my claim and came to the decision that the house where my wife lives should be taken into account as capital available to me. Nothing has changed since July 2009 when Hillingdon told me that if I didn’t move out of the marital home, they would issue a safeguarding alert on Steven as his mother’s mental health state was having an adverse effect on him and the sustainability of the care package. Included in the council’s own evidence bundle is a letter from the social worker at the time (“There’s always something or other……”) supporting the move. Nothing has changed between August 2009 and November 2012, except the way Hillingdon are viewing the second property issue.

One thing that has struck me reading their submission is how out of touch the benefits regulations are with the real experiences of the adult learning disabled and their families. As well as the obvious legal argument that my solicitor has submitted (basically that they have misinterpreted or misdirected themselves), we have also made submissions under the Equalities Act. In my case, there are three people involved in the story: me, my autistic adult son (who lives with me) and my incapacitated wife (who lives in the old marital home).

The HB regulations say that a second property can be disregarded if “it is occupied by an incapacitated partner or incapacitated relative of Mr Neary”. They argue my wife is not my “partner” as we live apart and she is not a relative because a wife/husband/spouse is not included in the list of “defined relatives”. My sister’s partner counts as a relative, so does an uncle but not a marital partner. Strange!

Next step, the HB regulations state the second property can be disregarded if “it is occupied by an incapacitated relative of a member of Mr Neary’s family. So, my wife is a relative of my son but Steven doesn’t count as a member of my family (He would have counted in the previous list alongside uncles and sister’s partners!). And the only criteria for discounting him as a member of my family is that he is financially independent of me. That is of course true but to differing degrees in every other aspect of his life, he is dependent on me. And will be as long as I continue to be his carer. That seems quite discriminatory to me – no acknowledgement of the special circumstances of a learning disabled adult living in the family home.

If any legal people are reading this, is there a possible CRPD issue going on here?

So, that’s that. At least 14 weeks to wait before the appeal is heard and little chance of success if the judge sticks to these very narrow definitions and views of “family”.



From → Social Care

One Comment
  1. This is the same issue that disabled adults living with parents who have been affected by the bedroom tax/benefits cap are having – they are not classed as members of the carer’s household and so therefore the household cannot be exempted from the cap despite there being a disabled person living there – but then they are also not entitled to help with housing costs in their own right, because they are living with their parents 😦

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