Couple vow to continue ‘bedroom tax’ fight

Kevin and Ann Gresham outside their specially adapted home.
Kevin and Ann Gresham outside their specially adapted home.

A disabled woman and her husband took up the fight over bedroom tax – and won.

But their victory could be short-lived as they now face having to repeat the battle.

Carer Kevin Gresham can rarely share a room with his wife of more than 40 years, Ann, because she is in near constant pain. He often sleeps in the spare room in their two-bedroom flat in Boothroyd Green, Dewsbury. But government policy says they are not entitled to a spare room and should move to a smaller house or have their benefits slashed.

A tribunal judge ruled in their favour, saying the couple should lose neither their home nor any money – but Kirklees Council has said it will appeal against the decision.

Now the pair say they will take their fight to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Mr Gresham said: “I know because we are right, and because we are just in what we are saying, at the end of the day we are going to win the war.

“What the government has done to disabled people in this country is immoral.

“They need to walk in my shoes for a couple of weeks and see just how much anguish they have caused.”

The government has granted exemptions to disabled people who have a second bedroom for a carer to sleep in, but because Mr and Mrs Gresham, both 61, are married they say they should sleep in one room.

But at Mr Gresham explained, this is not always possible.

He said: “Ann’s pain level can be so high that by me being in the same bed, the pain that I cause Ann is excruciating. I am not here to hurt my wife – I am here to care for her.”

Mrs Gresham broke her back more than 40 years ago. Daily spasms leave both her legs paralysed and she needs a wheelchair to get around.

Mr Gresham added: “People are being evicted because of this bedroom tax. People are committing suicide because of this bedroom tax. It is immoral.”

The flat was allocated to the couple three years ago by Kirklees because of its accessibility. The couple also said they had found only one other house in Kirklees that was suitable for their needs in more than a year of looking.

Mr Gresham said he felt Kirklees had no choice but to appeal against the government imposed legislation.

“We’ve won the first battle – bring on the second one. We will beat them again,” he said.

The spare room subsidy, dubbed the bedroom tax by critics, was introduced in April 2013.

If tenants are deemed to have one spare room, the amount of rent eligible for housing benefit is cut by 14 per cent. Those with two or more spare bedrooms have reductions of 25 per cent.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury Paula Sherriff has supported the Greshams throughout their case.

She said: “The bedroom tax is a cruel policy which predominantly affects the vulnerable and disabled in our society.”