R (Bracking) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2013] EWCA Civ 1345

ISSUE: In our June 2013 edition we examined the Administrative Court decision in this matter, which concerns a challenge to the abolition of the Independent Living Fund, a fund run by central government to provide grants to assist people to live at home.

The High Court had rejected both the challenge based on inadequate consultation and that based on breach of the public sector equality duty.

JUDGMENT: The Court of Appeal reversed that decision as regards the public sector equality duty (but not consultation). There was insufficient evidence adduced to establish that the decision- maker, the Minister for Disabled People, had the necessary focussed regard to possible impacts on protected groups. There were only sketchy references to possible impacts on the elderly and the disabled. The material placed before the Minister did not convey an adequate flavour of the responses received, which had indicated that independent living would no longer be provided.

There was nothing to identify a focus on the precise provisions of the Equality Act said to be engaged, and the precise envisaged impacts on persons affected.

COMMENT: The Court of Appeal’s judgment (at paragraph 26) contains a useful distillation of the principles relating to the public sector equality duty. This is likely to be regarded as the leading statement of the law in this area for the foreseeable future.

The decision reached by the Court of Appeal imposes a more exacting standard than that reflected in other recent case-law. In this case there had been appropriate research into impacts on protected groups. This is more impact analysis than seen in many cases in which this ground of challenge is dismissed.