On appeal from: [2017] CSIH 57

This appeal considered, where a claim to personal independence payment under the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 is based on a person needing social support to be able to engage with other people, whether the social support needed must be contemporaneous with the engagement being supported. It also considered whether anything that constitutes needing “prompting” to be able to engage with other people also constitutes social support, subject to it being provided by a person trained or experienced in assisting people to engage in social situations.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal insofar as interpreting the relevant legal provisions differently from the Inner House. As such the Supreme Court has returned the matter to the First Tier Tribunal for determination in accordance with this interpretation.

The Supreme Court held that a narrow and technical approach to the words ‘social support’ in descriptor 9c is unwarranted as it is inconsistent with the Government’s objective of creating a benefit which is easier to understand and enabling those who need extra support to live independently. The Court considered that careful scrutiny of the facts is sometimes necessary to determine whether descriptor 9c applies, including probing the information provided by sensitive questions and, where support is already being provided by family/friends, exploring how they have come to know what to do.

The Supreme Court held that Secretary of State’s insistence on it being necessary for the supporter to be present at the engagement would stand in the way of means of support which do not involve physical presence and would be likely to impede attempts to improve the claimant’s abilities to handle matters in future with less support. The Court considered that, given that social support is likely to take many different forms, depending on the individual needs of the claimant, it is undesirable to attempt to prescribe in the abstract which other forms of support will be sufficient. The Court rejected the Inner House’s acceptance that a ‘temporal or causal link’ was required between the help given and the activity.

For judgment, please download: [2019] UKSC 34
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (9 Apr 2019 morning session) (9 Apr 2019 afternoon session)