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NORTH CORNWALL LOSE HOUSING BENEFIT TEST CASE

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Three Bodmin residents with mental disorders have won a historic housing benefit test-case in London's High Court w...
Three Bodmin residents with mental disorders have won a historic housing benefit test-case in London's High Court which could save 'tens of thousands' of others from sleeping rough or being put into costly residential care homes.

Penelope Bateman, 24, Keith Edward Barrett, 29, and David Singer, 34, had all challenged North Cornwall DC refusals to pay their landlords a 'general counselling' fee. In a ruling that will have ramifications across the country, Lord Justice Roch and Mr Justice Sedley accepted their claim that the counselling fees were an integral part of their accommodation costs.

The court ruled that that the three had wrongly been refused community based counselling costs by the Council. The judges ordered the council's Housing Benefit Review Board to reconsider all three cases in the light of the court's ruling.

The Department of Social Security announced its intention to appeal against the ruling.

Sally Witcher, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group which backed the three, said outside court: 'this is an important test case which will effect thousands of vulnerable people. It plugs a sizeable gap in the Government's care in the community policy. Without counselling and support many people will end up back in institutional care or on the streets'.

One observer to the hearing, Hereford and Worcestor CC's principal officer for income benefits, Mr Don Barton, said outside court the decision would have profound effects in his county. More than 160 people in Hereford, Redditch and Kidderminster are in similar positions to the Bodmin three but had their landlords' counselling funded from the Social Services budget after housing benefit to cover the cost was refused.

'I believe this will affect tens of thousands of people who are discharged from mental hospitals but need support. They could end up on park benches at the moment or in very expensive residential accommodation which is not appropriate,' he said.

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