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Welfare benefits

Why Welfare Benefits are important

Access to welfare benefits affect millions of people including some of the most vulnerable members of society as “a social security case may well involve the right of a claimant to subsistence income and so directly affect their access to the most fundamental necessities of life” (per Dyson LJ, Wiles v Social Security Commissioner & Anr [2010] EWCA Civ 258).

What we do

Chambers has a long established expertise in social security law and members of the Team provide representation in:

  • the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber)
  • the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court
  • the Administrative Court
  • the European Court of Justice
  • the European Court of Human Rights

Despite the cuts to legal aid under LASPO, public funding is still available for the above types of work. For further details see: Use it or lose it: welfare benefits available on the LAG website.

The Impact of Welfare Reform

It had generally been assumed that welfare benefits were designed to provide a guarantee of a basic level of entitlement for those unable to support themselves and to provide a safety net for the vulnerable. The programme of welfare reform introduced in 2010 onwards has undermined this principle. Many claimants are being left with little or no income for significant periods of time due to a combination of delays, conditionality and sanctions. The roll-out of universal credit has compounded these problems.

Chambers is committed to addressing these issues, be it by taking on test cases or by providing urgent relief to individual claimants who are facing destitution or the loss of their home, by way of judicial review.

Our expertise

Chambers’ expertise across the spectrum of social security law ensures that Members are particularly well-suited to act in cases involving the interaction of welfare benefits with other disciplines, such as housing law, EU law, human rights, discrimination and public law challenges.

Members of the Team co-author the annual Housing Benefit Update in the Legal Action Group’s magazine and are contributors to the welfare benefits sections in Macdonald’s Immigration Law and Practice and the Housing Law Handbook (Law Society). Members of the Team regularly provide training to a range of organisations including the Housing Law Practitioners Association, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, the AIRE Centre, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Our Track Record

Notable cases undertaken by members of Chambers include:

  • R(DA) and Others v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2017] EWHC 1446 (Admin) – Benefit Cap – Whether unlawful discrimination, in so far as it applied to lone parents with children under the age of two
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs v HD (CHB) (Second interim decision): [2018] UKUT 148 (AAC) – Child Benefit – Whether a woman EEA national who was previously self-employed before a period of the latter stages of pregnancy and the aftermath of childbirth can rely on similar principles to those in C-507/12 Saint-Prix
  • Birmingham City Council & Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v SS and SA (Roshni intervener) [2016] EWCA Civ 1211, [2017] AACR 8 – Housing benefit – Whether rent charged by a women’s refuge was unreasonably high by comparison with rent charged by publicly funded charities
  • GN v Sevenoaks Borough Council (HB) [2016] UKUT 271 – Housing Benefit – Property subject to a confiscation order
  • Sanneh v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Others [2015] EWCA Civ 49, [2016] QB 455, [2015] 2 CMLR 27 – Income Support – ‘the rights of Zambrano’ carers – prior to amendments to the habitual residence test in November 2012
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v SF [2015] UKUT 502 (AAC), [2016] AACR 16 – Income Support – EEA workers – Extent of the rights under C-507/12 Saint Prix
  • Burnip v Birmingham City Council & Anor [2012] EWCA Civ 629, [2012] HRLR 20, [2013] AACR 7 – Housing Benefit – LHA rules as applied to the disabled in breach of Article 14 of the ECHR under the Thlimmenos principle
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Payne and Anor [2011] UKSC 60, [2012] 2 AC 1 – Income Support and the Social Fund – Whether the Secretary of State has the power to recoup a social security debt when it is subject to a Debt Relief Order
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Maria Dias (C-325/09) [2011] 3 CMLR 40; [2012] All E.R. (EC) 199; [2011] Imm AR 855 – Income Support – Whether periods of residence completed prior to the transposition of Directive 2004/38/EC contribute to the acquisition of the right to permanent residence
  • Malekout v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2010] EWCA Civ 162, [2010] AACR 28 Income Support – Early retirement pension taken under the NHS Pension Scheme following a personal injury – whether the disregard for personal injury applied
  • Novitskaya v London Borough of Brent and another [2009] EWCA Civ 1260 [2010] AACR 6 – Housing Benefit – Whether a claim can be made without using explicit words to indicate that a claim for housing benefit is being made
  • R (Gargett) v London Borough of Lambeth [2008] EWCA Civ 1450, [2009] PTSR 1434 – Discretionary Housing Payment – Whether a claimant could be entitled to a discretionary housing payment for a past period if they are currently in receipt of maximum Housing Benefit
  • Rowley & Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2007] EWCA Civ 598, [2007] 1 WLR 2861 – Child Support – Whether the Secretary of State owed a common law duty of care in negligence to an applicant for child support under the Child Support Act 1991
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Bhakta [2006] EWCA Civ 65 – Income Support – Habitual residence test and the use of the advanced awards provisions
  • R (National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shot Firers) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2003] EWHC 607 (Admin) – Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit – Whether the DWP’s failure to issue guidance on the use of the ‘Cold Water Provocation Test’ in relation to prescribed industrial injuries disease PDA11 (vibration white finger) was unlawful
  • Cooke v Secretary of State for Social Security [2001] EWCA Civ 734, [2002] 3 All ER 279 – Disability Living Allowance – Correct test for appeal to Court of Appeal from Social Security Commissioner and other specialist tribunals