Kerr v Department for Social Development (Northern Ireland): HL 6 May 2004

Wrongful Refusal of Benefits

The claimant was estranged from his family, but claimed re-imbursement of the expenses for his brother’s funeral. The respondent required him to establish that none of his siblings was in a better position than he to pay for the funeral, but he had no means of contacting them.
Held: Deciding a claim required several decisions as to facts. The Department had acted unreasonably. In practice it had access to the information which they required from the claimant, and should not have denied the benefit where the claimant was unable to supply information they could themselves provide. The Department should bear the burden of the collective ignorance and pay the claim.
Baroness Hale said: ‘What emerges from all this is a co-operative process of investigation in which both the claimant and the department play their part. The department is the one which knows what questions it needs to ask and what information it needs to have in order to determine whether the conditions of entitlement have been met. The claimant is the one who generally speaking can and must supply that information. But where the information is available to the department rather than the claimant, then the department must take the necessary steps to enable it to be traced.’

Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Baroness Hale of Richmond
[2004] UKHL 23, Times 13-May-2004, [2004] 1 WLR 1372, [2004] 4 All ER 385
Bailii, House of Lords
Social Fund (Maternity and Funeral Expenses) (General) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987, Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 134(1)(a)
Northern Ireland
CitedIrving v Minister of Pensions SCS 1945
Appeals were against decisions of Pensions Appeal Tribunals relating to claims for pensions in respect of death or disablement by war injuries. Article 4(1) of the Royal Warrant concerning Retired Pay, Pensions, etc dated December 1943 (Cmd 6489) . .
CitedRegina v Medical Appeal Tribunal (North Midland Region), Ex parte Hubble 1958
The claimant sought to receive money out of insurance funds fed by contributions from all employers, insured persons and the Exchequer. The procedure for determining whether the claimant is entitled to a disability benefit was said to be more like . .
CitedNimmo v Alexander Cowan and Sons Ltd HL 1967
The employer was prosecuted under the 1961 Act.
Held: the burden of proving that it was not reasonably practicable to make and keep a place of work safe rested upon the defendant employer. If an exception was to be established, it was for the . .
CitedRees v Hughes 1946
The need to arrange for funerals is a common law obligation ‘in the nature of a public duty’. . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Social Services, Ex parte Child Poverty Action Group CA 1989
The applicants sought judicial review of the failures by the respondent in processing claims for benefits. They asked that there should be a declaration that the respondent had a duty to refer a claim to an adjudication officer as soon as it was . .

Cited by:
CitedMote v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Another CA 14-Dec-2007
The appellant was accused of having received income benefits to which he was not entitled. A prosecution was commenced and at the same time he appealed to the tribunal against the decision that there had been an overpayment. The authorities . .
CitedREW, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Admn 13-Jun-2008
The claimant sought permission to bring judicial review of decisions of the Child Support Agency. He said that his payments should have been reduced for a period when he was in receipt of job seeker’s allowance. A liability order had been made . .
CitedNovitskaya v London Borough of Brent and Another CA 1-Dec-2009
The claimant appealed refusal of her claim for arrears of housing benefit.
Held: The appeal was allowed. The claim had been defective in having been made informally, but ‘the distribution of benefits is different from many other areas of civil . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Benefits, Northern Ireland

Leading Case

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.196619