Contact a Family – the national charity that supports families with disabled children whatever their condition – have produced a template letter and short guide to help parent carers ask for their hospitalised child’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to be re-instated if it has been suspended because they spent 84 or more days in hospital.
The charity have produced the letter and guide following the Supreme Court ruling last month on a case brought by the Mathieson family from Warrington that challenged the government rule that removed DLA from their severely disabled son when he spent nearly two years in hospital.
In an unprecedented step the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that taking away DLA from a disabled child after he had been in hospital for more than 84 days is in breach of his human rights and unlawful.
The Court didn’t say that that the hospital rules would be unlawful in all cases. Instead this will depend on the individual circumstances. However, where a family continues to provide a high level of care to their child in hospital, they should be able to use the Mathieson judgement to get their DLA payments reinstated.
Una Summerson, Head of Policy at Contact a Family says: “The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mathieson family’s landmark case last month means this is the first time ever that the Supreme Court has found for a claimant in a social security case. Families affected by the DLA Takeaway rules when your child is in hospital should contact the DLA Unit and ask them to review the decision to suspend their child’s payments.
“The template letter we have produced is designed to be used where a child under 16 has had their DLA payments suspended after 84 days in hospital. Some families may be affected by a different rule, which says that where a child first claims DLA in hospital payments cannot start until they are discharged home. Our template letter does not cover families in this situation. However, they may still be able to use the Mathieson judgment to argue that their child’s human rights have been breached. We can provide families with an amended review letter to help them argue this.”
Young people aged 16 and 17 are treated as adults under the DLA rules and have their DLA payments suspended after only 28 days in hospital. However, despite falling under the adult DLA rules, 16 and 17 year olds are still defined as children under national and international law. If a 16 or 17 year old continues to receive a high level of care from their family in hospital then they may still be able to use the Mathieson judgement to challenge the suspension of their DLA payments.
Parent carers can call Contact a Family’s free helpline – 0808 808 3555 – for further help or visit www.cafamily.org.uk to download a copy of the template letter and guide.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has not yet responded to the Mathieson judgement. It may decide to amend, or even scrap the hospital rules, but at the time of writing its intentions are not known.
Contact a Family supports families with disabled children across the UK. Whatever the condition, whenever they need us, wherever they are. We provide information, advice and support. We bring families together so they can support each other. We campaign to improve their circumstances, and for their right to be included and equal in society. www.cafamily.org.uk