Lorraine Cox

Date of publication: July 7, 2020
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This judicial review challenged the six-month life expectancy rule for terminally ill social security claimants.

PILS Member: Law Centre NI

Legal support through the Pro Bono Register and Litigation Fund financial support to cover costs related to lodging proceedings.

In 2020, Lorraine Cox from Fermanagh applied for leave to challenge the legal definition of terminal illness, represented by the legal team from the Law Centre NI. Lorraine was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017 at the age of 37 and had initially been turned down for an enhanced PIP payment because of the six-month life expectancy rule.

Under the Welfare Reform (NI) Order 2015, a person who has made a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim on the basis that they are terminally ill will be considered to be terminally ill if they are suffering from a progressive illness and “…the person’s death in consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within 6 months” (Article 87).

Lorraine’s case challenged the compatibility of the Welfare Reform (NI) Order 2015’s six-month rule and Regulation 2 of the Universal Credit Regulations (NI) 2016 with human rights law (Article 1 Protocol 1 and Article 8 ECHR read alone/in conjunction with Article 14 ECHR).

Lorraine’s legal team contrasted the treatment of terminally ill social security claimants who could not demonstrate their life expectancy was less than 6 months (not entitled to enhanced payment under the Special Rules) with the experience of claimants with terminal illness who subsequently lived beyond their 6-month life expectancy (continued to receive their benefits for three years without needing a review).

The application for judicial review was heard at the High Court in Belfast on 18 and 19 June 2020.

On 8 July 2020, the High Court ruled that this difference in treatment was ‘manifestly without reasonable justification’. This was considered to have breached Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights in conjunction with Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1.

Delivering the judgment, Mr Justice McAlinden stated [at para. 104] “Upon careful scrutiny of all the evidence, I can find no evidence, justification or rationale to explain why the applicant was not deemed to be entitled to the enhanced rate of PIP for activities of daily living and the standard rate of mobility from the date when her terminal diagnosis was confirmed.”

PILS are proud to have assisted this case through our Pro Bono Register and our Litigation Fund.