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Loss of disability premiums when claiming UC is discriminatory says High Court

14 June 2018

Mr Justice Lewis ruled that the DWP unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled men who both saw their benefits dramatically reduced when they moved Local Authority and were required to claim Universal Credit.

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Leigh Day press release

TP and AR, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Work And Pensions - Bailii website

In response to the decision Ken Butler, Disability Rights UK Welfare Rights Adviser, said:

“ The High Court’s ruling that Universal Credit transitional rules are unlawfully discriminatory is a tremendous victory.

“At least 500,000 disabled people are currently in receipt of severe disability premium and enhanced disability premium within their ESA.

“It may be that the DWP anticipated defeat when it announced last week that disabled would be given greater transitional protection on claiming Universal Credit.

“But this is not enough.

“Universal Credit needs wholesale reform to automatically include both the severe disability premium and enhanced disability premium.

“Future disabled Universal Credit claimants will have the same range of extra costs due to their disability and rightly also need help to pay them”

Background to the case

The legal action was brought by our two claimants, known as TP and AR.

TP has a terminal illness. In October 2016 when he became sick he moved temporarily from London to his parents’ house in Dorset but returned to his home in Hammersmith and Fulham, a Universal Credit full service area, to receive better treatment.

AR suffers from severe mental health issues. In 2017, he moved from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a Universal Credit full service area, as he could no longer afford the property he was living in due to the imposition of the bedroom tax.

Prior to moving, both TP and AR were in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.

These premiums were lost and both claimants saw an immediate drop in their income of around £178 a month when they were moved onto Universal Credit.

When they asked for top up payments they were told that Government policy was that no such payments would be paid until July 2019 when managed migration would begin.

Late last year Leigh Day issued judicial review proceedings on the Claimants’ behalf arguing that what had happened was unlawful on three grounds:

  1. The SSWP has breached the Equality Act 2010 in failing to have due regard to the impact of removing the premiums on severely disabled people
  2. The 2013 regulations discriminate against the severely disabled living alone with no carer, as compared to other severely disabled people, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights
  3. The implementation of Universal Credit and the absence of any ‘top up’ payments for this vulnerable group as compared to others constitutes discrimination contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights

Today the High Court judge found in the Claimants’ favour on ground 3.

Since the trial was heard, Esther McVey the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced that no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP will be made to move onto Universal Credit until transitional protection is in place and committing to compensating those like the claimants who have lost out.

Despite this, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has sought permission to appeal, maintaining that there was nothing unlawful with the way the claimants were treated.

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