Incredible victory for ordinary family of a disabled child who took on the government and won

Contact A Family logoMathieson family make history as decision on their landmark case means this is the first time ever that either the Supreme Court or its predecessor the House of Lords has found for a claimant in a social security case.

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 is in breach of his human rights and unlawful. This is the first time ever that either  the Supreme Court or its predecessor the House of Lords has found for a claimant in a social security case.

The ruling announced today, 8 July, will have a significant impact on the estimated 500 families with severely disabled children who spend time in hospital undergoing treatment. As a result, Contact a Family and The Children’s Trust are calling for the government to urgently act on the court’s ruling, issue guidance to ensure that similar unlawful decisions are not made and scrap the rule that says that DLA should be suspended when a child has been in hospital for more than 84 days once and for all.

In a joint statement Amanda Batten, CEO of Contact a Family and Dalton Leong, CEO of The Children’s Trust, said: “Today’s Supreme Court judgement is in absolutely incredible and a groundbreaking victory for the Mathieson family who have fought tirelessly on behalf of some of the most severely disabled children in the UK who require hospital treatment.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has recognised that it is unfair and unlawful to remove the main disability benefit for children – Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – from families of the most sick and disabled children when they need it most. The judgement shows that the court understands that many parents provide extra care that even the best equipped hospitals can’t give and have substantial costs – such as loss of earnings, travel and meal expenses, parking fees and childcare costs for siblings – as a result.

“This is great news for families of disabled children across the UK. The welfare system should be there to protect families when they are at their most vulnerable. We now call on the government to urgently act on today’s judgement and scrap this unfair rule once and for all. Families affected by the rule should seek advice about using this judgement to ask that their DLA payments restart.

“We would like to extend our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to the Mathieson family who have fought tirelessly, not for their own benefit, but for the other hundreds of families affected each year.”

In a landmark case heard at the Supreme Court last March, the Mathieson family from Warrington challenged the DWP regulations that took DLA away from their severely disabled and hospitalised son.

Cameron Mathieson spent more than two years in hospital with cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. His family acted as full time carers at the hospital until the five year old’s death, in October 2012. The family decided to continue their legal challenge in their son’s name so that no other family with a disabled child who spends long periods in hospital has essential financial support taken away from them.

The government argued that DLA is stopped when a child spends 84 days plus in hospital because their care needs are fully met free of charge by the NHS. However research carried out by Contact a Family and The Children’s Trust who have been supporting the Mathiesons, shows that of 104 families affected by the rule:

  • 99 per cent said they provided more or the same level of care when their child is in hospital, compared to when their child is at home
  • 93 per cent said that their costs relating to their child’s disability increased when their child is in hospital.

The government must now urgently act on the Supreme Court’s ruling.  We also call on the public to support the Mathieson family and sign our Stop the DLA takeaway in hospital petition which has already been signed by over 6,000 people.

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