Salvato v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWCA Civ 1482 — read judgment
The Court of Appeal has allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal against a ruling that the system of calculating childcare for Universal Credit indirectly discriminates against women. The judgment below was reported in the blog here.
Childcare costs under Universal Credit
This is a case about the payment of childcare costs under Universal Credit. Universal Credit claimants can claim an element reimbursing them up to 85% of the costs of childcare while they go to work.
Ms Salvato, a lone parent, claimed that the system for calculating childcare costs indirectly discriminated against her on grounds of sex contrary to Article 14 when read with Article 1 Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Her complaint related to the way in which childcare costs are calculated. Unlike other elements of Universal Credit, such as the housing costs element, the childcare costs element is only payable after the claimant has already paid the costs of the charges, rather than merely incurred them (Ms Salvato’s legal representatives dubbed this requirement the ‘Proof of Payment’ rule). She maintained that the rule placed her (and other women in her position) at a disadvantage, because unlike many men she could not afford to pay the childcare costs upfront.
Both were decisions of the Supreme Court concerning the benefit cap. This provides that a household’s total entitlement to welfare benefits cannot exceed an annual limit. The cap is disapplied if a certain amount of relevant work is completed.
In common with many Article 14 ECHR claims, both cases raise complex issues about the proper constitutional role of the courts. SG (the first benefit cap case)
G (Adult), Re  (Associated Newspapers Limited intervening) EWCOP 1361 (1 May 2014) – read judgment
Sir James Munby, President of the Court of Protection has ruled that the Daily Mail has no standing to be joined as a party in welfare proceedings in relation to a vulnerable adult who has been declared by the courts as lacking capacity under the Mental Capacity Act.
Background to the application
The court was concerned with a 94 year old woman, a British African Caribbean who lives in her own home in London. G is 94 years old. G has never married and has no children. She has no family living in the UK. She suffers from conditions that have limited her mobility; arthritis, rheumatism, a dislocation of her left knee and carpal tunnel syndrome. She also has high blood pressure and double incontinence. G rarely leaves home now, except for hospital appointments. Continue reading →
G (Children), Re  EWCA Civ 336 (25 March 2014) – read judgment
This interesting family dispute demonstrates the tension between legal parenthood and biological parenthood in times when both legislation and common law are struggling to keep up with the possibilities offered by reproductive medicine; where a child can be born with no biological relationship with its gestational parent, or, conversely, where children can be borne of two separate mothers and yet be full genetic siblings.
The appellant and respondent had been in a lesbian relationship for some years. Following unsuccessful attempts by the respondent to conceive using her own eggs, the appellant agreed to donate eggs so that the respondent could become pregnant. She donated eggs which were fertilised with sperm from an anonymous donor. The embryos were implanted in the respondent who carried and gave birth to the twins. Continue reading →
Zoumbas (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) On appeal from the Inner House of the Court of Session,  CSIH 87  UKSC 74 – read judgment
The Supreme Court has clarified the principles to be applied when considering the welfare of children in deportation cases. The following summary is based on the Supreme Court’s Press Summary.
The appellant (Mr Z) and his wife (Mrs Z) are nationals of the Republic of Congo currently living in Glasgow with their three children, now aged 9, 5 and 2. Mr Z entered the UK illegally in May 2001 using a French passport that did not belong to him. He married Mrs Z in November 2003 after she had entered the previous year using a forged French passport and both their asylum claims had been refused. Their appeals were unsuccessful . In October 2005 Mrs Z and the couple’s daughter (A) were detained and removed to Congo. For the following ten months, Mr Z was treated as an absconder having failed to report to the authorities.
Child Poverty Action Group, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  EWHC 2579 (Admin) (17 July 2012) – read judgment
The High Court has ruled that the government acted unlawfully by removing the Child Poverty Commission, an advisory body set up under the Child Poverty Act 2010 . They had also acted beyond their powers by preparing a child poverty strategy without having requested and having regard to the advice of that Commission. But government is free to formulate new policy and as such there was nothing irrational about the strategy itself.
There is of necessity a great deal of statutory construction in this judgment which makes for dry reading. But the ruling is an important reassessment of the principles of judicial review that have taken root since the power of the courts to intervene in government decision making was reinforced in Anisminic Ltd v Foreign Compensation Commission  2 A.C. 147. This ruling, as every law student knows, established that a public body acts unlawfully, both in the narrow sense of acting outside its jurisdiction, and where such jurisdiction was wrongly exercised. This means that courts may intervene not just where a governmental act is unlawful under an express provision of the statute but also where the decision or policy, although authorised by statute, has been made in breach of a rule of public law. Continue reading →
A database which was to hold the details of every child in England will be switched off at noon today, but the uneasy relationship between social services, the government and the courts in child protection matters still remains.
The closure of the £224 million scheme marks a victory for human rights and privacy campaigners as well as the fulfilment of a longstanding promise by the coalition partners.
The ContactPoint Database was set up in the wake of Lord Laming’s 2003 Victoria Climbié Public Inquiry, which recommended, amongst other major changes in child protection policy, that the government should investigate the setting up of “a national children’s database on all children under the age of 16.” Victoria Climbié died in 2000 at age 8 after being abused by her guardians. In the trial of her guardians which followed her death, the judge described the response of local authorities as “blinding incompetence”.
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