On Friday, 3 May, Central England Law Centre has won a legal challenge to rules affecting over 13,000 people claiming benefits through the government's flagship Universal Credit scheme.
The judgment concerns people who moved to Universal Credit from legacy benefits, who have received the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) prior to their transition. It specifically relates to those who made a 'natural migration' onto Universal Credit before 16 January 2019, when an 'SDP Gateway' was created to stop them from doing so.
Mr Justice Swift found that the Department of Work and Pensions rules governing this transition onto Universal Credit were discriminating against disabled claimants, and has ruled them unlawful.
Three benefits claimants were represented in the Judicial Review: TP and AR, represented by law firm Leigh Day, and SXC, represented by Central England Law Centre.
SXC claimed Universal Credit after moving house within her local authority area; her home has changed but her needs have not. She was then wrongly advised that she had to claim Universal Credit, first by the local authority's benefits service and then by another advice agency. In fact, she could have remained on her legacy benefits and continued to receive her Severe Disability Premium.
When she realised that the move to Universal Credit reduced her benefits payout by £100 a month, she was unable to claim legacy benefits again becuase of the DWP's 'no turning back' principle. The shortfall left her unable to pay her bills and has impacted her health, causing her to be hospitalised several times since her migration to Universal Credit.
Michael Bates, who led on the case for Central England Law Centre, said:
“This is a really important decision from the court. It confirms that the government’s Universal Credit scheme continues to treat severely disabled claimants differently, and that this treatment is unlawful. There is an obvious solution to this and we look forward to seeing the government’s response.
“Our client was wrongly advised and should never have been put in this position. To have had to go all the way to the High Court to resolve this issue is extremely frustrating. A derisory payment of £80 per month was never going to compensate our client for the loss of £180 per month.
“The government needs to think carefully and quickly about how it remedies this discrimination. Until they do, there are over 13,000 claimants who will continue to lose out as a result.”
The Guardian - "Universal Credit regulations ruled unlawful by high court"
The High Court's judgment on BAILII