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Mother’s courage and determination to make it better for others with terminal illness

3rd August, 2021

Law Centre NI today acknowledged the courage and determination of its client, Lorraine Cox, a young mother, who brought a legal challenge to the terminal illness rules.

Today, the Court of Appeal overruled a decision by the High Court which, in July 2020, found that differential treatment of social security benefit claimants with a terminal illness was unlawful.

Law Centre NI brought this case on behalf of our client, Lorraine Cox, who is terminally ill but was refused access to special rules for terminal illness to access benefit support.

In July 2020, the High Court ruled that Lorraine Cox had suffered a breach of her human rights by being denied fast-tracked disability benefits because it was not clear how long she would survive.

Despite her diagnosis, Lorraine was required to search for work for months after medically retiring and had to undergo medical assessment for both Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

At the time Lorraine spoke about her experience, saying:

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I believe the system has failed me and the approach to dealing with people who have a terminal illness needs to be urgently addressed. I have accepted my path in life now, but please don’t put anyone else through it.”

The High Court decision was appealed by the Department for Communities and Department for Work and Pensions to the Court of Appeal.

Today’s judgment comes shortly after Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, announced that she will extend the terminal illness provision in social security benefits from six months to 12 months. The Minister has also committed to looking at further options for reform in the future including review of the definition of terminal illness and looking at a clinical model in the time ahead.

The Court of Appeal found that there had been a review of the rules by politicians and that it was not appropriate for the Court to intervene with the definition of the special rules on terminal illness.

Speaking after the Court of Appeal ruling, Head of Social Security for Law Centre NI, Owen McCloskey, said:

“Lorraine has been resolute in her determination to ensure that no other person with a terminal illness has to endure the same experience as she did. She has campaigned tirelessly for a change to the rules on terminal illness and her legal challenge has been so important in highlighting the need for reform. Lorraine and Law Centre NI welcome the proposed change in legislation announced by the Minister recently and we would now like to see this legislation passed as quickly as possible”.

Commenting on the decision, Director of Law Centre NI, Ursula O’Hare, acknowledged the bravery and tenacity of Lorraine throughout the long legal process:

“At a difficult time in her life, Lorraine has bravely sought to make the system better for everyone. We welcomed the recent announcement by the Minister of reform to the terminal illness rules, coming just before this decision. We hope that this case has, in some way, helped to shine a spotlight on the need for the system to be more supportive of people in similar situations to Lorraine. We will continue to monitor how the new arrangements work so that everyone gets the support they need when they need it most.”

Ends

Notes to Editors:

Law Centre NI would like to acknowledge the support of The PILS Project in taking this case forward and availability to assist in strategic litigation to use the law for social change.

Head of Social Security for Law Centre NI, Owen McCloskey, is available for interview. All media enquiries should be directed to Law Centre NI. Please contact Catherine McShane on 028 9024 4401 or email catherine.mcshane@lawcentreni.org

Previous press releases on the case can be found on Law Centre NI’s website – see links below:

Judgment below: approved by the Court for handing down (subject to editorial corrections)*