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PIP 20 metre court case fails

24 July 2014

Judicial review challenge to PIP 20 metre consultation process fails

The High Court has today rejected the judicial review challenge to the fairness of its consultation process on the introduction of new 20 metre eligibility criteria for the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The challenge was brought by Mr. Steven Sumpter who can only walk a few metres with a stick and is otherwise dependent on a wheelchair. He was assessed as eligible for the high rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) last year and he has used this to lease a Motability car. He fears that he may lose his benefit and so his Motability car under PIP.

Under the DLA, a disabled person is usually entitled to the higher rate if they cannot walk more than 50 metres. Under the PIP, the relevant distance is reduced to 20 metres. 

The Government’s own figures predict that under the new scheme,  by May 2018, just over  600,000 will qualify for the new high rate mobility benefit compared to over a million people who would have qualified under the old scheme.

The judicial review proceedings were launched in March 2013 and argued that the 2102 consultation was unfair because the Government had failed to mention the new 20 metre qualifying criterion in its consultation on the new criteria in 2012.    

In today’s judgement, the High Court found the eligibility criteria in the 2012 consultation to have been “mind–bogglingly opaque”.  The judge commented that:

“ … had it  been necessary for me to have determined whether the consultation process would have been fair if it had stopped in December 2012 …, the question would have been difficult and it should not be assumed that I would have found it to have been fair and lawful. Indeed, I have the gravest doubt as to whether I would have found it to be so.”

However, the High Court nevertheless concludes that, overall, taking into account the further consultation in 2013, the process had been lawful.

Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK says:

“This judgement is bitterly disappointing. We strongly supported the judicial review action and provided witness statements to the High Court.

Despite receiving over 1,100 responses to the 2013 consultation opposing the new PIP mobility test the Government has pressed ahead regardless. 

PIP could see thousands of disabled people become institutionalised in their own homes.  The DWP expects that 600,000 disabled people who currently get the higher rate mobility component will lose it altogether or receive the lower amount.  This means that many will lose their car under the Motability car scheme so they will no longer be able to get to work or get out and about. We strongly believe the benefits system should support and not constrain disabled people’s independence.”

Mr Sumpter is represented by the Public Law Solicitors who say it is looking carefully at the possibility of an appeal.