Social rights, child rights, discrimination and devolution: untangling the web

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper examines two recent judicial reviews of social security policy and practice in the UK. SG argued that the household benefit cap in Great Britain, introduced following the Welfare Reform Act 2012, unlawfully discriminates against women. While the review ultimately failed, the various judgments reveal fundamental differences in judicial positions on the question. McLaughlin argued that the restriction of bereavement benefits in Northern Ireland to bereaved spouses and civil partners – excluding unmarried cohabitants – represents unlawful discrimination on the basis of marital status. This case reveals similar judicial divisions: the review was successful at first instance, with this decision overturned by the Court of Appeal – a further appeal to the Supreme Court is pending. While each case ostensibly concerned discrimination against claimants, in practice much of the legal argument centred on the impact on claimants' children. The paper considers what lessons can be drawn from the various judgments about the relative weight that ought to be afforded to claimants' property rights, the best interests of affected children, anti-discrimination provisions and the state's stated policy imperatives of cost control and administrative convenience. Insights are also sought into whether devolutionary differences can be identified between the approaches of courts in London and Belfast.
Period16 Mar 2017
Event titleEconomic and Social Rights Academic Network UK and Ireland (ESRAN) workshop
Event typeConference
LocationNewtownabbey, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • social security
  • children's rights
  • social rights
  • human rights
  • devolution
  • discrimination
  • judicial review
  • european convention on human rights
  • convention on the rights of the child
  • uk supreme court