Why Legal Aid is so important
This month, our Justice First Fellow Samantha Maher and solicitor Mary Heery attended the Court of Appeal for a pivotal case involving their client, which could see a change in Social Security regulations if won. The case has yet to be decided. The client, a vulnerable adult with serious disabilities appealed against the disallowance of DLA during a hospital stay. The current regulations are that an applicant aged 18 years or over is not paid Disability Living Allowance (`DLA’) after he has been a hospital in-patient for a cumulative total of 28 days or more. The client argues that the Regulations should be repealed for adults, as they were for children, following the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015. Amanda Weston QC , Desmond Routledge & Ollie Persey of Garden Court Chambers represented our client in this case, 'MOC v Secretary of State for Work & Pensions' before Lord Justice Peter Jackson, Lord Justice Singh and Lady Justice Andrews.
This case illustrates perfectly the absolute need for Legal Aid. Without access to Legal Aid, this important case would not have been heard as the cost would have proved impossible to pay for the client and attention may not have been drawn to the wider issues surrounding DLA which need reviewing for the welfare of Disabled people across the country. At the heart of this case, beyond all the talk of regulations, is the fact that someone who has no speech, is blind and cannot walk had their benefits taken away whilst in hospital, while at their most vulnerable. Benefits that allow them to retain an element of care, that ensure their carer has the funds to continue to visit them, to ensure they have everything they need to run their home whilst they are away. What kind of regulations punish people for being hospitalised? Legal Aid allows people on low income to have fair access to justice and must be preserved and funded well. We are hoping for a positive decision on this case which could see a much needed change in regulations for the most vulnerable in society.