A COUPLE who care for their profoundly-disabled grandson are being backed by a top parliamentarian in their bedroom tax challenge of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Thirteen-year-old Warren Todd is the only known sufferer in the UK of Potocki-Schaffer Syndrome, a chromosome disorder which means he is unable to walk, talk or feed himself.

He lives with his grandparents Susan and Paul Rutherford in a specially-built bungalow at Bro Waldo, Clynderwen, which has been designated as his 'home for life' by the Pembrokeshire Housing Association.

The third bedroom of the property is used for storage of much of the equipment that Warren needs for his round-the-clock care.

Yet, following the introduction of the bedroom tax - brought in by the government to try to reduce under-occupancy in social housing - the authority has refused an application by Mr and Mrs Rutherford for discretionary housing payment because of the 'spare' room.

"The council's ruling means we are around £14 a week worse off, but it is not the amount of money we are arguing about, but the principle," said 56-year-old Mr Rutherford.

"If Warren were to go into residential care, we understand it would cost the council a quarter of a million pounds a year. Yet because we are happy to look after him in his own home, we are being penalised."

Warren, who attends Portfield School, has lived with his 58-year-old grandmother since he was 20 months old after his mother suffered from post-natal depression following the birth of his younger sister.

"Our life revolves around Warren, and because there are only 40 people in the world with his condition, we don't really know what his future holds," said Mrs Rutherford.

"We try to treat him like any other child - we can recognise his needs and he understands us. We just want the best for Warren, and we want the issue resolved."

The Rutherfords say they have been told by the council that because their income exceeds their expenditure, they should be able to meet the rent shortfall.

"The council reckons we have got £99 a week spare, but they have included in this the Disability Living Allowance care component which Warren receives," said Mr Rutherford. "That money is spent on Warren - we don't see it as our income."

After the Rutherfords' plight was highlighted on Channel 4 News, Conservative MP Andrew Selous said an inquiry was needed into why the family has not received a discretionary housing payment from the council.

Pembrokeshire County Council told the Western Telegraph it has received a 'significant' number of applications for discretionary housing payments.

A spokeswoman said: "In cases where the customer or a member of their household is confined to a wheelchair and resides in a property that is purpose-built or adapted to meet the needs of their disability, they may be entitled to a discretionary housing payment.

"Every application is considered on its individual merits. In the above circumstances, the council will only reject an application for a discretionary housing payment when it appears the customer has an excess of income over expenditure.

"At the customer's request we will review, with them, their income and expenditure to ensure the figures submitted to us are accurate."