Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

Triumph on discriminatory ‘bedroom tax’

Published

on

‘Almost crying with happiness’: T he Rutherfords have fought for carers across the UK

‘Almost crying with happiness’: The Rutherfords have fought for carers across the UK

IN A BLOW to the UK’s Conservative government and a victory for carers for the disabled, the High Court in London has decided that the bedroom tax is unfair and discriminatory against the disabled and their carers.

In a judgement which wholly rejects representations made by the Department for Work and Pensions, a panel of judges led by Lord Chief Justice Tomlinson found in favour of a Pembrokeshire couple who had brought the action.

The successful appeal against a lower Court’s decision was made by Paul and Susan Rutherford, acting as litigation friends for the grandson, Warren.

Paul and Susan Rutherford from Pembrokeshire who care for their 14-year-old grandson Warren in a specially adapted home that includes a room for professional carers to stay in overnight, had their housing benefit reduced as they were deemed to have a spare bedroom. Warren, suffers from Potokoi-Shaffer Syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder which means he is unable to walk or talk, and needs 24 hour care by at least two people at all times.

The Conservatives’ bedroom tax meant that a bedroom used by overnight carers who look after him was counted as an additional bedroom whose presence in the family home was surplus to the family’s requirements.

Opposition politicians in Wales were swift to hail the result of the court case.

Rebecca Evans AM, Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, sent her heartfelt congratulations to Paul, Susan and Warren on the news.

Following the Court of Appeal decision, Mrs Evans said: “I am delighted for the Rutherfords. Having visited them at home and discussed their situation I know how long and hard-fought this battle has been. It has long been clear to me that the ‘hated Bedroom tax’ is discriminatory.

“Let there be no mistake, the bedroom tax is nothing more than an ideological attack on struggling households. It is a disgrace that the majority of affected households have disabled residents. Once again, the UK Government is hitting the most vulnerable people hardest.”

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Simon Thomas said: “The bedroom tax is a cruel policy that has been widely discredited, and criticised by United Nations inspectors as being inhumane. This latest judgement has to be welcome. Plaid Cymru has opposed the bedroom tax at every opportunity in Westminster.”

Simon Thomas continued: “The Rutherford family are to be congratulated for the compassion and care they have shown their grandson and the way they have been prepared to fight this case, even though the bedroom tax was being met by a discretionary housing payment in their circumstances. They should be awarded a medal for the way they have dedicated their lives, not penalised for having a room in the house to accommodate overnight carers.

“Families with disabled members need to be exempted from the tax immediately. Many homes occupied by disabled individuals and families have been adapted for their use at public expense. It is a nonsense to force them to move.”

William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat for AM for Mid and West Wales, told The Herald: “All the evidence shows that the so-called bedroom tax is unfair and needs radical reform. Despite this, the Tories stick their heads in the sand and continue to punish the most vulnerable in our society.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in protecting the most vulnerable people, which is why we have argued that disabled adults and children should be permanently exempt from this policy. This is a particular concern to parents of children and young people with autism and related conditions, as members of NAS Pembrokeshire Branch have raised with me.

“There can be no question that reform is needed, so that people who are unable to downsize because of the lack of an alternative home aren’t hit by this cut in their Housing Benefit.”

Owen Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “I’ve met Paul and spoke about his brave struggle at Labour conference. The fight his family have led against the Bedroom Tax should be an inspiration for all of us to stand up and campaign for what’s right.

“This victory in the Court of Appeal is a massive blow to the Tories’ Bedroom Tax. It provides a glimmer of hope for the hundreds of thousands of people who have been hit by this cruel policy.”

Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb told us: “As made clear by the DWP following today’s judgement, the Government has committed to giving local councils over £870 million in extra funding over the next five years so that they can offer payments to families in difficult circumstances to ensure they don’t lose out. The Rutherford family were receiving these payments from Pembrokeshire County Council, meaning they were being awarded the same amount of housing benefit as before the reforms were introduced.

“The discretionary housing payments system is an effective safety net that helps support vulnerable residents as welfare reforms are introduced. Local councils must act fairly and reasonably when considering whether to offer the discretionary payment.”

The point made by Mr Crabb – that discretionary direct housing payments (DHP – in respect to which the Court noted future commitment is ‘uncertain’) are sufficient for the state to discharge its burden of care was one rejected by the Court. It is legal argument over whether a discretionary and temporary policy, such as DHP, can displace the absolute requirement not to discriminate against members of an easily identifiable group under UK law, which is likely to dominate any appeal the government launches against the Court decision.

Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Vos, also pointed out that the “admitted discrimination” in each case “has not been justified by the Secretary of State”

Leading disability charity the Papworth Trust, which has been campaigning since 2013 for a fairer system for disabled people affected by the bedroom tax Papworth Trust welcomed the Court of Appeal ruling.

The charity’s research found that nine in 10 disabled people were being forced to cut back on food or pay household bills after being refused emergency housing payments to help them pay the spare room subsidy. It made written submissions in support of the Rutherfords at an earlier hearing.

Vicky McDermott, chief executive of Papworth Trust, said: “Ensuring disabled people do not lose out under the ‘bedroom tax’ policy has long been a priority for Papworth Trust.

“We have worked closely with concerned families, like the Rutherford’s, and have seen first-hand the worry and angst this has caused.

“We heard from families who were considering downsizing, even though it would mean their quality of life would drastically suffer, while others saw their spare room as a crucial lifeline to sleep carers or house disability equipment like wheelchairs and hoists.

“So we are delighted with the Court of Appeal ruling and how it will directly help Paul, Sue and Warren as well as disabled youngsters and their families in the future.”

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, gave a statement of evidence in the original case which was referenced in the Court’s judgment. Ms Holzhausen argued that families who have a clear need for additional bedrooms for a carer should be entitled to an additional room; and that alternatives suggested by the government – such as moving to smaller accommodation or taking in a lodger – are not appropriate for carers.

Carers UK told The Herald that 60,000 carers are currently affected by the bedroom tax.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “This policy is having a catastrophic impact on families, many of whom are already struggling practically, emotionally and financially to care for seriously-ill or disabled loved ones.

“Carers UK has argued that the policy unfairly penalises carers since it was first introduced in April 2013. Our research shows that those carers who are affected by the bedroom tax are being left unable to pay their electricity and heating bills and some families are falling behind on their rent and facing eviction.

“Following today’s ruling, we urge the Government to amend the regulations to protect carers and their families. The policy is clearly having a devastating impact on vulnerable families and the Government cannot allow this to continue.”

Mr Rutherford told the BBC: “I’m a bit lost for words. I could almost cry with happiness.

“It was just so unfair, somebody had to do something to get the law changed, or the situation changed.”

He added: “We’re all saving the government millions of pounds between us and we need looking after and helping, rather than penalising. us.”

We invited a comment from local Conservative AMs Paul Davies and Angela Burns. Our request was not acknowledged and no statement was received from them at the time this article went to press.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News

Approval recommended for dockyard plans

Published

on

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week.

Despite many objections from heritage organisations, Council planning officers recommend the development’s approval.

However, the Planning Committee will only indicate whether it is ‘minded to approve’ the proposal instead of giving it the go-ahead.

The Welsh Government has called in the application for decision by the next Welsh Government minister responsible for planning and infrastructure developments.

That means the Welsh Government will consider the Report presented to the Committee and weigh it against the objections received.

HERITAGE ASSETS VERSUSECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The application is to develop a brownfield site within the former Royal Dockyard.

It seeks outline planning permission for the demolition or part demolition and infill of various buildings and structures, modification of existing slipways, erection of buildings and ancillary development. 

The development is intended for port-related activities, including the manufacture of marine energy devices, boat manufacture, repair and erection of plant.

The application is for outline planning permission. All matters relating to access, appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale are reserved for consideration as part of reserved matters applications. In practice, as many councils – including Pembrokeshire – have discovered, once outline planning is granted, reserved applications tend to proceed despite potential negative impacts.

A similar situation arose with Milford Haven Port Authority’s hotel development at Milford Marina, where councillors’ concerns were largely overruled by the existence of outline planning permission for the development.

Part of the proposal would see the former graving dock and timber pond infilled, the part demolition of existing slipways, and some buildings on site.

Both the graving dock and timber pond are Grade II listed. Buildings near the development are also listed, including the iconic Sunderland flying boat hangars.

The existing caisson gate currently in situ at the dock’s southern end would be removed and conserved. It is unique in Wales and a rare example. The planning report states that the caisson gate would remain within the marine environment without development and deteriorate. 

The development would include a new ‘super slipway’ built over the land extending into the River Cleddau and the construction of massive new industrial sheds to accommodate new marine technology.

JOBS AND THE CITY DEAL

The planning report claims the facilities erected will support anywhere between 288 and 975 full-time equivalent jobs in Pembrokeshire and make a substantial contribution to the local economy. However, the report also notes that the numbers of jobs claimed cannot be corroborated.

This proposal is linked to the establishment of the Marine Energy Test Areas (META), the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and the Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone (PDZ). These collectively comprise the Pembroke Dock Marine (PDM) project. 

The project forms part of the Swansea Bay City Deal to facilitate the next generation of marine renewable energy technology.

Companies who could potentially gain from the development have signalled their support from the proposal.Although their enthusiasm is predictable, the economic potential for local businesses cannot be ignored.

DOCKYARD ESSENTIAL TO TOWN’S EXISTENCE

However, a raft of objections also exists.

The Council received representations from, among others: The Victorian Society; The Georgian Group; Hywel Dda University Health Board;  Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre; Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust; Pembroke Civic Trust; Naval Dockyards Society; The Commodore Trust; Ridgway History Group.

Not all of those organisations objected to the principle of development. For example, Hywel Dda expressed concern about the potential effect on access to South Pembs Hospital and patient care. However, most criticised the impact on the historic environment of the Royal Dockyard. Individual objections also expressed the same concerns.

The Naval Dockyard Society points out that the Dockyard construction was the reason for Pembroke Dock’s creation as a town. Without it, the town would not exist.

The Society continues: ‘The proposed scheme would severely damage Pembroke Dock Conservation Area and crucial listed buildings. 

‘The Grade II* Graving Dock would be infilled and partially built over, the Grade II Timber Pond infilled and built over, and the Grade II Building Slips Nos 1 and 2 partially demolished and removed. It would also be detrimental to the adjacent Grade II Carr Jetty setting, which adds to the group value of these threatened structures at Pembroke Dockyard.

‘These structures are the last and most important features of the magnificent and unique assemblage of thirteen slips, graving dock and timber pond constructed and functioning 1809–1926. 

‘Pembroke Dock specialised in building warships during the transition from wood to iron and steel, sail to steam and turbines. 

‘While the eastern slips were sacrificed in 1979 for the Irish ferry terminal and the deep-water berth Quay 1, we now live in a more responsible era, when significant community assets merit planning protection.

‘The Royal Dockyard established at Pembroke Dock from 1809 was unique: the only one in Wales, the only one on the west coast of Britain, and the only one created solely as a shipbuilding facility. 

‘It built over 260 warships for the Royal Navy, including many of the most prestigious warships of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as five royal yachts. Many of these vessels were built on the two large slipways at the western end of the yard threatened by the current development proposal’.

THE COMMUNITY’S VIEW

William Gannon represents Pembroke Dock Town Council on the Milford Haven Port Authority. Mr Gannon recently hosted an online event that reviewed the application and gave local people the chance to express their views.

We asked him what the public had to say about the plans.

Listening to the community: David Gannon (photo credit: David Steel)

William Gannon told us: “The feeling of the Community following our Zoom Meeting was that we welcome the 1800 jobs and the £63 Million of investment that the Pembroke Dock Marine Project has promised. 

“However, the Community is concerned about the Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock’s loss, which will be buried beneath the new slipway. Both The Pickling Pond and The Graving Dock are Grade 2 Star listed heritage assets.

“The Community are also concerned about the size of the two ‘super sheds’ that may be built. It is felt that these sheds are both too large and ugly, and they will damage the appearance of the Dockyard and The Haven and could damage Pembroke Docks plans to develop Tourism in and around the Dockyard.

“Our Community is looking to strike a balance between the need to develop the Dockyard and to preserve our Heritage Assets. 

“We believe that we can do this by working with The Port to develop a solution that allows for both.”

The Port Authority plans to infill the dock and pond in such a way as to preserve the structures and excavate them in the future. Once they are built over, however, the circumstances that would be possible or even likely are unclear. 

The Port Authority also proposes to use digital media to provide an ‘augmented reality’ experience to show visitors what the Royal Dockyard looked like before its development.

The Port says that part of the land, the Carriage Drive, would be enhanced and restored under its plans for the site.
The balance between preserving heritage and creating future jobs in one of its pet project areas is one the Welsh Government will wrestle with on this application and others.

Continue Reading

News

Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

Published

on

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

Continue Reading

News

New trees planted to help town

Published

on

SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

Continue Reading
News21 hours ago

Approval recommended for dockyard plans

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to develop part of Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard comes before the County Council’s Planning Committee next week. Despite many...

News2 days ago

Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said...

News2 days ago

Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of...

News3 days ago

Marloes pensioner in child abuse images case

A PENSIONER has been bailed to attend Swansea Crown Court by magistrates sitting in Haverfordwest Law Courts this week. Derek...

News4 days ago

Primary school teacher described as ‘touchy-feely’ on day two of trial

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher, accused of sexually assaulting his pupils was “very touchy-feely”, Swansea Crown Court heard on the...

Entertainment4 days ago

BAFTA winner Sir Anthony Hopkins visits St. Davids

CELEBRATING his BAFTA win, Sir Anthony Hopkins has been vaccinated and returned to his native country of Wales where he...

News4 days ago

Trial of Haverfordwest primary school teacher starts at Swansea Crown Court

A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher who is accused of sexually abusing eleven children thinks he is a victim of a...

News5 days ago

Kill the Bill protest to take place in Haverfordwest on Saturday

INDIVIDUALS and activists from local groups, including Extinction Rebellion Pembrokeshire, Stand Up to Racism West Wales, Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly and...

News5 days ago

Everything you need to know about the current coronavirus restrictions in Wales

THE GOVERNMENT guidelines in Wales are changing today (Apr 12). There are major changes coming into force today across the...

Health5 days ago

New Covid vaccine arrives first in West Wales

THE FIRST person in the UK to receive the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 got their jab at 8:30 in the...

Popular This Week