The Department for Communities & Anor v Cox

Northern Ireland Court of Appeal: Morgan LCJ, Treacy and McClosky LJJ, [2021] NICA 46, 3 August 2021

The applicant, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, challenged a refusal to grant her enhanced rate Personal Independent Payments and assessment-free Universal Credit (“UC”) on the basis that she was terminally ill, in each case because she did not fall within the relevant legislative definitions of “suffering from a progressive disease where death in consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within 6 months” (emphasis added). The prognosis in the applicant’s case was that her condition was terminal but the trajectory uncertain. Northern Ireland’s High Court ruled, per McAlinden J, that the exclusion of the claimant from the benefits she sought breached her Article 14 rights read with Article 8 and A1P1 and awarded her damages of £5 000 in respect of the upset, distress, annoyance, inconvenience, worry and humiliation caused by the breach. The Court of Appeal allowed the Department’s appeal, applying the decision of the Supreme Court in R (SC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] UKSC 26, [2021] 3 WLR 428 and ruling that the discrimination was justified. Continue reading