Challenge to extension of deaf allowance

Government moves are under way in a bid to snatch back a legal victory won by 20-year-old Rebecca Fairey, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, who has beaten deafness to become a nursery nurse.

Earlier this year she won a landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal which promised to benefit other deaf people.

The ruling entitled her to receive payment for the services of an interpreter, both to assist with activities vital to her living and for social activities.

However, the Department of Social Security (DSS) has now been given the go-ahead to appeal to the House of Lords in a bid to overturn that ruling.

Fairey, who was born deaf but who managed to train and secure work as a nurse, has been at the centre of a procedural row over her Disability Living Allowance since 1988, when her mother was refused an attendance allowance. The battle has continued since to reverse that decision.

Last October the case reached a Social Security Commissioner who ruled that, despite the views of the DSS, the legal criteria for Fairey's case was that her need to be able to "carry out a reasonable level of social activity" should be brought into the balance in considering her application for an allowance. He sent the case back to review how much money Fairey should receive.

The DSS challenged the commissioner's view on the basis that he did not have sufficient evidence of the attention which was reasonably required by Fairey and that he put too broad an interpretation on the factors to be taken into account in such cases.

However, in June this year, by a two to one majority, the Court of Appeal upheld the view that Fairey – and as a result others like her – are entitled to have their social lives taken into consideration.

Announcing the decision Lord Justice Glidewell said there was nothing in the relevant legal provisions which maintained that only "attention necessary to maintain life itself" should be taken into account for applications such as Fairey's.

The DSS has now secured leave to appeal that decision at the House of Lords.