The legal challenge to the ‘bedroom tax’ – a new hope

Desmond Rutledge reviews the prospects of the bedroom tax litigation succeeding in the light of the recent Supreme Court judgment in the household benefit cap case.

Welfare Benefits and Human Rights

The importance of social security is recognised in a range of international instruments.  A right to social security was adopted in the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 (art 22) and was subsequently enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966 (ICESCR) as a right of “everyone” (art 9).  The ICESCR also makes clear that circumstances where an individual is permitted to become destitute would be in breach of the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes adequate food, clothing and housing (art 11). Continue reading

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Tackling hate speech aimed at Gypsies, Travellers and Roma

Marc Willers QC explores the hate speech targeting Roma, Gypsies and Travellers and the power to prosecute perpetrators for incitement to racial hatred.

On 27 January 2015 we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the day when Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Quite rightly we reflected upon the terrible fact that the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Yet there was little mention of the hundreds of thousands of Romani Gypsy and Sinti[1] people that were also murdered by the Nazis during World War II in what has become known as the Porrajmos (the ‘Devouring’). Continue reading

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Judge rules that Mr Pickles unlawfully discriminated against Gypsies and Travellers

Marc Willers QC explores the recent High Court judgment in which it was found that the conduct of Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, constituted indirect discrimination against Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers.

Meeting the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers should be relatively simple, but it has always been a contentious political issue because of widespread prejudice amongst the settled population and nimbyism. Planning permission is required for use of land as a caravan site and permission for sites in the Green Belt will only be granted in very special circumstances. Continue reading

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Is the Cart-threshold being set too high?

Desmond Rutledge and Zubier Yazdani consider the hurdles facing welfare benefit claimants seeking to use the Cart test.

Introduction

Speaking generally, a First-tier Tribunal (‘FtT’) has a wide discretion when making case management decisions, such as whether to adjourn, so long as it has regard to the overriding objective of dealing with cases fairly and justly (Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Social Entitlement Chamber) Regulations 2008, SI No 2685, rule 2(1)).  There is no specific definition in the Rules as to what ‘justly and fairly’ means.  However, rule 2(1) is informed by the common law rules on natural justice and the right to a fair hearing enshrined in article 6(1) of the ECHR. In  R (MM & DM) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2013] EWCA Civ 1565, the Court of Appeal upheld a finding that claimants with mental health problems suffer a ‘substantial disadvantage’ within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, s.20(3), compared to other claimants in the assessment of their eligibility to Employment and Support Allowance. The substantial disadvantage point and how it was taken in into account by the Rules was at the heart of the legal challenge described below. Continue reading

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Challenging a Refusal of Permission to Appeal by the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) in a Welfare Benefits Case – A Practice Note

Desmond Rutledge provides a practice note on challenging a refusal of permission to appeal by the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) in a welfare benefits case.

  1. What options do claimants have if the Upper Tribunal refuses permission to appeal?

If permission to appeal against a decision of a First-tier Tribunal in a welfare benefits case is refused by the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber), then the claimant will not be able to appeal that decision.  This is because it is an excluded decision under s. 13(8)(c) of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, and the Upper Tribunal has no jurisdiction to review its refusal of permission by virtue of  s.10(1) and s.13(8)(d)(i) of the 2007 Act.  This means the only remedy available is by way of judicial review (Samuda v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2014] EWCA Civ 1).  The deadline for applying for judicial review against a refusal of permission by an Upper Tribunal is 16 days. CPR rule 54.7A(3). Continue reading

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How to be a feminist lawyer

Elizabeth Woodcraft and Alison Diduck, a Professor at University College London, speak about what it means to be a feminist barrister.

More and more women are going into the law as solicitors, barristers, legal executives, academics. Indeed, in England and Wales more women than men now qualify as barristers. But far fewer women get promoted to the highest levels. There is only one woman, Brenda Hale, on the UK Supreme Court.

Around the world, feminists have been developing an important critique of legal systems and the assumptions underpinning law making. Continue reading

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Are welfare benefits exempt from bank charges under section 187(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992?

Desmond Rutledge considers whether the protection conferred on welfare benefits under Social Security legislation continues once those benefits have been paid into a current bank account.

Are welfare benefits protected from recovery of a debt owed to a bank?

Welfare benefits are paid to cover the recipient’s essential living expenses and, where applicable, to contribute to their housing costs (see Burnip v Birmingham City Council & Anor [2012] EWCA Civ 629, at [32]-[33], [50] and R (MM & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] EWHC 1900 (Admin) at [48]).  Where, however, welfare benefits are paid into the claimant’s current account, the bank or building society can use the money in that account to make repayments towards bank loans or credit cards, and where the  account goes into debit, on interest payments and bank charges, even if this results in the claimant having insufficient funds to cover essential payments.  Continue reading

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