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United Kingdom: Judges reject prisoners’ right to welfare benefits complaint

Judges have rejected a complaint concerning convicted United Kingdom prisoners’ entitlement to social security benefits.

In its 21 May decision in the case of S.S. v. the United Kingdom and F.A. and Others v. the United Kingdom (application nos. 40356/10 and 54460/10) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

The case concerned five convicted prisoners’ entitlement to social security benefits whilst serving criminal sentences in psychiatric hospitals. New regulations were introduced in 2006 to ensure that
prisoners in psychiatric hospitals did not receive social security benefits, available to other patients, until the date they would be entitled to release from prison.

They complained that denying them the social security benefits paid to all other patients in psychiatric hospitals had amounted to unjustified discrimination.

The court emphasised that states have a lot of room for manoeuvre to decide in areas of domestic economic or social policy, such as who is entitled to social security benefits. It therefore concluded
that the case was inadmissible, the difference of treatment not being unreasonable given that the applicants, although patients, were also convicted criminals who had been given prison sentences.

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