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Withdrawal of DLA for children in hospital can amount to human rights breach

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the withdrawal of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from a child in hospital for more than 84 days can amount to a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Cameron Mathieson, a 3 year old child who was born with bowel problems and cystic fibrosis, was hospitalised from July 2010 to August 2011.  During this time his parents continued to be Cameron’s primary caregivers including administering twice daily physiotherapy and feeding him via a tube. 

Cameron’s father challenged the regulations governing DLA that mean a child stops receiving the benefit after their 84th day as a NHS inpatient. 

The Supreme Court ruled that the regulations constituted discrimination against disabled children in breach of Article 14 ECHR.  It held that the government’s aim in imposing the 84 day rule was to avoid overlapping provision to meet disability-related needs from public funds.  However, the government had failed to evaluate the impact of this rule on the children concerned.  The rule overlooked the importance of parental participation in the care of a child in hospital. 

Although the Court ruled in favour of Cameron’s father, it did not strike down the rule as a whole. It left it to the government to decide what measures should be taken to avoid violation of the rights of disabled children such as Cameron.