Cameron Mathieson's family wins Supreme Court case against DWP

image captionCameron's father Craig Mathieson (pictured) won a Supreme Court test case challenging rules governing disability allowances

A family has won its legal bid to challenge limits on welfare payments to severely disabled children in hospital.

Benefits for Cameron Mathieson, five, stopped after he spent more than 12 weeks in Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool.

Supreme Court judges agreed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been "grossly unfair" when it stopped his payments after 84 days.

His family said they had continued the fight over Disability Living Allowance (DLA) "on behalf of other families".

Cameron, from Warrington, Cheshire, died in 2012 after suffering from cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, among other conditions.

'Significant victory'

Speaking after the ruling, his father Craig said: "This decision is a fantastic legacy for Cameron.

"Cameron adored people and he would have been delighted to know that because of him, other vulnerable children and their families will not have to endure the same financial hardships we had to contend with while he was in hospital."

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image captionCameron Mathieson spent more than two years in Alder Hey Hospital

The court was told payments were suspended in November 2010 when Cameron was three.

A panel of three judges concluded the Secretary of State's decision "violated [Cameron's] human rights under article 14 of the convention" and "acted unlawfully in making the decision."

Analysis: Kathleen Hawkins, BBC News, Ouch

This decision will be celebrated by many disability campaigners, who have argued for a long time that disability benefits should continue while a person is in hospital.

They say that a disability does not simply stop when a person enters hospital, and the costs incurred by family members are often much higher during this time.

They also argue that for children the need for a continuing allowance during a hospital stay is crucial. Severely disabled children often have specific, individual needs that only parents may understand, and articulating these needs to hospital staff can be an important part of the care they receive.

Up until now, DLA has been payable to under-16s for the first 84 days of a hospital stay. It has two components - care and mobility - and in this case Cameron's parents say they continued to act as full-time carers to their son.

It was estimated by children's charities in 2013 that there were around 500 children affected by this rule every year, so this decision could signal a change in how funding is handled for these families too.

The family's solicitor Mitchell Woolf, said: "While this judgment does not immediately apply to all similar cases, it enables around 500 families to seek the reinstatement of their DLA payments."

He said his client lost his son in 2012 but "chose to fight for other families so they would not go through the hardship the Mathieson family faced when DLA was stopped."

Stopping DLA leaves "other families unable to afford to visit and support their children, sometimes as they suffer a terminal illness," he said.

In a joint statement, charity bosses Amanda Batten, of Contact a Family, and Dalton Leong, of the Children's Trust, said: "It is a significant 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."

Both groups, who have campaigned on the matter, said they were "delighted" the Supreme Court had recognised it was "unfair to remove disability benefits from the most sick and disabled children when they need it most."

It was "welcome news for families of disabled children across the UK," they added.

A DWP spokesman said: "The government recognises the difficult situation faced by parents and families where a severely disabled child requires a long stay in hospital for treatment.

"Up to now, DLA has been suspended when a child is in receipt of long-term NHS in-patient care in order to prevent double provision - the taxpayer paying twice for the same thing. This has been the case for more than 20 years."

The spokesman added: "We are considering the judgment carefully."

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