Case Study Four: Pat and Tony Ramsey
|Is it discrimination?
What’s happened – what’s gone wrong?
|Which benefit or process is this example about?||Housing Benefit and Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) were refused because Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was taken into account.|
|About Pat and Tony and their situation||Pat and Tony Ramsey, a working age couple living in a three-bedroom social housing property. They have two children who recently left education and home, which meant they were no longer entitled to Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit and ‘a reduction of 25% in Housing Benefit due to under-occupation’.
While they have some reduced outgoings now that their children have left home, overall they have suffered a large drop in benefit income and after having to recently pay for their oil tank to be re-filled, they are not making ends meet.
They live in a rural village. Pat is disabled with care needs She has kidney dialysis at home. Tony used to work for the DWP at the Jobcentre but was made redundant when it closed. He has part-time work in local shop (eight hours a week on minimum wage). Pat receives income related Employment and Support Allowance (irESA) with Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and standard rate daily PIP. He receives Carers’ Allowance (CA) as well as her wage. They pay for someone to be with her when he works. They don’t have any savings. Full council tax paid through Council Tax Reduction. They must find £25 rent per week on top of Housing Benefit.
Their application for DHP was refused because they were not judged to be in financial hardship. All their benefits were taken into account including PIP.
They no longer have a car as it was old and it became too expensive to repair. A lack of local transport limits his possibility of finding more work and increases their expenses getting to hospital for her regular appointments. Her PIP helps to cover the cost of carers and transport costs.
Income, minus Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction: £60 (gross) wage; £62.70 CA; £55.65 PIP (daily living); irESA £66.15= £244.50 per week.
Outgoings: £50 food and domestic costs; £35 fuel (she is at home most of the time and needs to keep warm, and they are off grid and pay for oil); £2 TV; £25 rent; £50 travel (average taxi fares); £15 (phone and internet); £5 insurance; £50 care and carer costs; £5 payments on a washing machine = £237.00
A recent oil bill has meant that they cannot make ends meet.
|What are the flags/alarm bells/lightbulbs that can help you recognise discrimination?||Flags and alarm bells
PIP usually not means-tested (unusual to be taken into account).Blanket policy, adverse impact, unfair discretionary decision.The extra expenses are a consequence of Pat’s disability.
|What do Pat and Tony want to happen?||Help with budgeting and energy efficiency.
Fairer treatment from the local authority in future.
|How can equality rights help to solve problems in welfare benefits?
Why did it go wrong?
|The welfare benefits perspective||Housing Benefit and Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) were refused because Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was taken into account.|
|The discrimination and Equality Act perspective:
• Reason for the unfairness (the protected characteristic)
• the type of discrimination (the prohibited conduct)
|Reason for the unfairness?
Disability.The type of discrimination?
Breach of public sector equality duty (section 149 Equality Act 2010)What has gone wrong?
The adviser explained to the local authority:
what the clients had done to reduce regular outgoings and why some of them were high because of disability
why the clients needed to stay in local area
that taking into account PIP wrong because it is a non-means-tested benefit.Finally, the adviser argued that the local authority had exercised its discretion in breach of public service equality duty and requested reconsideration of the decision.
|Top tip||Because there are still comparatively few reported cases about welfare benefits and the Equality Act 2010, it is important to carefully consider and seek specialist advice about the merits of each claim if you are considering starting court action.
In this case it might be possible to also argue section 15 Equality Act 2010, which could be a contested argument. The section 15 argument would be that the local authority took into account something arising in consequence of disability (the PIP benefit). And that because of that benefit, the clients were losing out on DHP.
The recent Court of Appeal case of Williams v Swansea University 2017 EWCA Civ 1008, looked at section 15, and what was meant by the term ‘unfavourable’. A key issue was whether treatment which confers advantages on a disabled person could amount to “unfavourable treatment” within section 15. The contested issue would be whether the PIP benefit conferred an advantage (ie it was an additional benefit). Would that ‘advantage’ prevent the impact of taking PIP into account for DHP from being unfavourable treatment?
This is a developing area of law. If you think something is wrong, but you are not sure how the law applies, seek specialist advice. By raising an issue with a specialist adviser, you can help to develop the case law.
|Taking action about discrimination and finding more help
What can you do?
|How could you use the Equality Act and other rights to put this right?||Use breach of Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) (section 149 Equality Act 2010) to argue that they local authority policy on DHP and PIP had failed to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination.|
• helped the couple switch to cheaper electricity tariff and looked for an oil club locally
• checked energy efficiency measures in house (cavity wall, loft insulation, windows)
• considered whether to apply for a revision of PIP to include mobility (but decided the risks were too great)
• looked for car share projects locally and online
• considered with Pat and Tony whether they could find smaller accommodation (none was available and local connections are important for help with care needs)
• considered benefits of seeking a lodger (Pat and Tony felt taking in a lodger would be too stressful)
• challenged the DHP decision.
|What evidence would be useful here?||Evidence that shows Tony and Pat and their adviser had looked for other solutions, and the impact on them of the LA policy.|
|Time limits||A claim of judicial review (eg Public Sector Equality Duty) should be started promptly and no later than three months less one day.
A claim in the County Court for discrimination has a time limit of six months less one day.
|Resources and information that would help in similar cases||Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) resources for advisers.
EHRC Code of Practice on services, public functions and associations.
|Additional support||EHRC Adviser Support Line|
|Policy or campaigning issues||Raising awareness at decision-making level in the local authority might lead to a policy change and change in recognition of Equality Act duties.
Developing the case law on Equality Act and welfare benefits.