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Suspension of childs DLA unlawful

08 July 2015

Landmark Judgment: Suspension of child’s DLA in hospital breach if his human rights

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that taking away Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from a disabled child after he had been in hospital for more than 84 days was a breach of his human rights and unlawful.

The ruling announced could have a significant impact on the estimated 500 families with severely disabled children who spend extended time in hospital undergoing treatment.

Cameron Mathieson spent more than two years in hospital with cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. His family argued that they acted as full time carers until the five year old's death, in October 2012. 

Evidence presented to the Supreme Court showed that:

  • the hospital relied heavily on Mr and Mrs Mathieson to undertake his daily care in the clinic;
  • one or other of Mr and Mrs Mathieson was resident in the hospital
  • “they remained his primary caregivers”; and
  • the hospital relied on them to monitor his condition daily and on several occasions they were the first to notice deterioration in it.

Research carried out by Contact a Family and The Children's Trust, who have been supporting the Mathiesons, shows that of the families affected by the DLA suspension hospital rule:

  • 99% said they provide more or the same level of care when their child is in hospital compared to when at home
  • 93% said that their costs relating to their child's disability increase when their child is in hospital. 

Despite this, the Supreme Court declined to disapply the provisions for the suspension of DLA saying that - 

“Although the court’s decision will no doubt enable many other disabled children to establish an equal entitlement, the Secretary of State must at any rate be afforded the opportunity to consider whether there are adjustments, otherwise than in the form of abrogation of the provisions for suspension, by which he can avoid violation of the rights of
disabled children following their 84th day in hospital.”

While this judgment is a landmark victory it is incredibly disappointing that the Supreme Court did not also disapply this rule.

Disability Rights UK supports the call to make sure the government now acts on the Supreme Court's ruling.
Decision in full - https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2014-0166-judgment.pdf