DWP unlawfully delayed paying carer benefits for 4 years

24 Nov 2017

The Court of Appeal (Sales, Lindblom, Asplin LJJ) has today, in Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Fileccia [2017] EWCA Civ 1907, dismissed the Secretary of State’s appeal in this important test case about delays in paying social security benefits. Tom Royston, led by Richard Drabble QC, acted for the successful Respondent, instructed by Platt Halpern.

The ruling means the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) acted unlawfully in delaying, for more than 4 years, paying carer’s allowance to help the Respondent look after a seriously disabled friend.

The Secretary of State argued that France rather than the United Kingdom (UK) should be responsible for paying any benefit, because France was paying Mr Fileccia a pension. The Respondent said French officials had told him they would not pay, and an independent tribunal in the UK decided that the UK was responsible. But the Secretary of State continued to withhold benefit.

The law requires that where there is a ‘difference in views’ between European Union (EU) countries and the UK about which country should pay benefit, the claimant’s state of residence should make interim payments to avoid long delays in payment while the difference in views is resolved.

The Secretary of State had suggested that a ‘difference in views’ has to be demonstrated by a benefit claimant to a high level of formality, with documentary evidence. He suggested that the Respondent’s account of a conversation with a French official was inadequate and that since the French authorities had not followed that up with a letter, it was down to the Respondent (who is not French, and lives in the UK) to seek judicial review in France if he wanted to obtain any interim benefit in the UK.

The Court of Appeal found that the Upper Tribunal was entitled to take a broader approach. The Respondent’s account of his conversation with French officials was adequate evidence of a difference of views.

As a result of this case, it will be quicker and easier in future for vulnerable individuals to receive financial support while governments argue amongst themselves about who should fund it. The decision may affect anyone who has travelled in the EU, whether they are a UK national or EU national.

It is not yet known whether SSWP intends to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

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