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Bedroom Tax Victims Like the Rutherfords Aren't Asking for the World - Just Some Security for Their Families

01/28/2016 07:38 am 07:38:16 | Updated 28 January 2016

In December 2014, I went to Clynderwen in West Wales to meet Paul and Sue Rutherford and their grandson Warren. I had heard about their case and how they were fighting the bedroom tax but despite knowing all the facts going in to their home and spending time with the family was a humbling experience. In the two years I served as Labour's Work and Pensions spokesman it is the day that haunts me even now. None of us know what life will bring. Whether we will be well and healthy tomorrow. Whether the people we love will be. Whether our children or grandchildren will be born with a disability or not. But we all hope, and expect, the state to be there for us when we are most in need. For too many this safety net just isn't working. That's definitely true of the Rutherfords.

Warren, fourteen years old when I met him, has a rare chromosomal disorder - Potocki Shaffer Syndrone - and his disabilities include epilepsy, autism, and his condition affects the development of the bones, brain and other organs.

Paul and Sue are Warren's full time carers, devoting their lives to him. Without them Warren would end up in care, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds and breaking up a family that provides so much more than the best care home could ever provide.

When I visited the Rutherfords I promised them that if Labour won the election, cancelling the bedroom tax would be the first thing I did. When I saw the exit polls at 10pm on 7 May I thought of Warren and his grandparents. I felt we had let them down and I feared what another five years of Tory government would mean for them and the other 500,000 households paying the bedroom tax.

On Tuesday, Paul and Sue got a rare piece of good news. They took the government to The Court of Appeal - and won, with the Judge concluding that the bedroom tax is unlawful because it discriminates against disabled children and in a separate case against the victims of domestic violence.

But before the family even had the chance to celebrate the government announced they wouldn't accept the verdict and will drag the Rutherfords to the Supreme Court - costing taxpayers yet more tens of thousands of pounds in court and barristers fees.

What the government should do is read the Judge's verdict and understand why this intransigence - around disabled people and domestic violence victims - jars with people's sense of fairness. At least for these two specific groups the government should think again. Bedroom tax victims aren't asking for the world - just some security for them and their families. For people like Paul and Sue we should be trying to make life a little easier for them, not penalising them for devoting their lives to their disabled grandson. Let's hope the Supreme Court agrees.

Rachel Reeves is the Labour MP for Leeds West, and a former shadow work and pensions secretary

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