It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. Your child is in hospital and it looks like it will be a lengthy stay. What’s the last thing you should have to worry about at that time? Money.
Cameron Mathieson was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy shortly after he was born. Cameron’s parents cared for him and his three siblings at their home in Warrington. Because of Cameron’s additional care needs, his parents had to give up their jobs and, once they spent their savings, they fell back on state benefits.
In July 2010 Cameron, aged 3, was admitted to hospital. During that time, Cameron’s parents continued to play a vital role in his care. One of his parents stayed at the hospital with him at all times. Cameron remained in hospital until August 2011. The family had to pay around an extra £8,000 due to loss of earnings, travel costs, meals at hospital and other miscellaneous expenses.
Cameron was entitled to a benefit called Disability Living Allowance. This was paid to his parents to compensate for the additional care which they diligently administered. But the government introduced a rule that if a child stays in hospital for more than 84 days, they lose that benefit. As a result, Cameron’s family lost around £7000.
The family took the government to court, claiming Cameron’s human rights not to be discriminated against were being breached. The Supreme Court agreed with the family. The removal of Cameron’s benefit was disability discrimination. Taking away the benefit because of Cameron’s hospitalisation was not fair. It took no account of the reality that his family actually incurred additional costs while Cameron was in hospital. The fact is that the demands, both personal and financial, made of parents when their child is in hospital are hard enough, without imposing additional money worries.
Sadly, Cameron passed away on 12 October 2012. His case shows the extraordinary lengths to which loving parents, utterly devoted to their child’s care, will go. It is right that society should support such families in their most difficult times.
Read our exclusive blog post by a barrister who represented the family here.