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Bedroom tax, Issue 1400
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John Smith, who has lifelong physical and other impairments, coaches others with severe disabilities to play wheelchair football
ANFIELD stadium erupted in cheers last month for disabled coach and lifelong Liverpool supporter John Smith when he was presented at half-time with a Downing Street volunteering award for “making a change” in his community and “inspiring others”.

On the Point of Light certificate, David Cameron wrote: “For many people conquering disability to play wheelchair football would be enough of a challenge, but John has gone so much further…” Now an FA-accredited coach, 39-year-old Mr Smith, who has lifelong physical and other impairments, coaches others with severe disabilities to play wheelchair football.

By an unfortunate coincidence, Dave’s cabinet colleague Iain Duncan Smith, the minister for whacking the disabled, has also singled out Mr Smith for special treatment. The coach is now awaiting the results of a legal test case over the bedroom tax, which threatens his work as a volunteer.

Bungalow blow
Mr Smith fell foul of the rules because he lives alone in a specially adapted two-bedroom bungalow. He was ordered to pay an extra £12 a week – which he can ill afford - towards his housing costs because he was deemed to have a spare room. Last September, however, he won his appeal after a tribunal found the extra room was used to store his essential living aids, including his sports wheelchair and bath chair, as well as the sports and coaching equipment he uses for himself and for his voluntary coaching work. Alas, the work and pensions secretary does not agree and has decided to appeal. Mr Smith is now awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court.

Room for manoeuvre
Ruth Knox, from the Merseyside benefits and money advice charity Raise, which has supported Mr Smith with his appeal, tells the Eye his second room was essential to hold his equipment, which would not fit in a small flat with suitable wheelchair access. “Without that extra room, John would not be able to do all that volunteering work and make the contribution to the community which David Cameron has recognised,” she says. “It does strike me as being a bit of a contradiction, but maybe Iain Duncan Smith will be able to explain it.” Or maybe not.

More top stories in the latest issue:

The personal independence payment (PIP) is the latest benefit that Atos is bungling, with delays and disputes concerning its assessments.

Nothing to see here: the gross misconduct case against whistleblowing police chief inspector John Buttress will be held in secret.

How and why Behavioural Insights Ltd (the privatised successor to the “nudge unit”) is being selectively transparent when it comes to its accounts.

More problems at the troubled Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend suggest it still has plenty of work to do to raise standards.

The “bullying culture” at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has led to the surgical removal of its chief executive.

The “ninja” NHS unit that held secret meetings with private health firms and then covered its tracks

The Royal Bank of Scotland has hired lawyers and accountants with clear conflicts of interest to investigate its murky “global restructuring group”

The chronic shortage of retained firefighters in rural Scotland, and the funding shortfalls that will make it a hot issue for some time

Money to burn in Hampshire, where the fire service can afford “professional development coaching” from a company run by a shamanic practitioner

The Scottish “Stakeholder Reference Group” set up to propose legislation for wild fish preservation is little more than an industry boys’ club.

To read all these stories in full, you can buy the latest edition of Private Eye - or subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale:
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Private Eye Issue 1400
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For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.
Next issue on sale: 15th September 2015.

Private Eye Issue 1399