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DWP loses severe disability premium case

30 January 2020

Department for Work and Pensions loses court case over severe disability premium

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the Government’s appeals against two previous court judgments which found that it had unlawfully discriminated against thousands of severely disabled people who moved onto Universal Credit (UC).

The ruling upholds two successful High Court challenges brought by TP and AR, in which the courts found that individuals previously in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (“SDP”) and Enhanced Disability Premium (“EDP”) are to be protected against a drop in their income when they move onto UC.
 
The first challenge brought by TP and AR was won in the High Court in June 2018. The men had been forced to move onto UC when they moved into a local authority area where the new benefit system had been rolled out. Under UC they lost out on the SDP and EDP, leaving them suddenly around £180 a month worse off. The judge found that this was unlawful because those that moved to a different local authority area were being treated differently to those who moved within their local authority area.
 
As a result of the first challenge the government attempted to rectify the situation by making regulations which stopped other severely disabled people from migrating onto UC and provided that those like TP and AR, (who had already moved onto UC), would receive retrospective and ongoing recompense.

 

However, the Government chose to recompense TP and AR and those like them at a rate of only £80 per month rather than £180 per month which is what they had actually lost.
 
TP and AR mounted their second legal challenge along with a third claimant SXC (represented by Central England Law Centre) arguing that short-changing them was unlawful as they were being treated differently to those who remained on legacy benefits. The High Court found in their favour in May 2019.
 
The government, whilst appealing both judgments, increased the top-up payments but only provided recompense of £120 per month rather than the £180 lost. A third legal challenge regarding that decision is pending.
Tessa Gregory from law firm Leigh Day who represented TP and AR said:
 

“We hope that the Government will waste no more time or resources fighting this legal case  and will instead get on with what it should have been doing in the first place,  protecting this acutely vulnerable cohort of claimants and overhauling UC to make it fit for purpose.”
 
Leigh Day is continuing to bring a separate group claim, on behalf of those who previously received SDP and/or EDP and moved to UC prior to 16 January 2019, for the full amount lost as well as compensation for any pain and distress caused by the move to UC.

For more information see Government loses Universal Credit appeals against claimants with severe disabilities at leighday.co.uk

The High Court’s full judgment - R (TP, AR & SXC) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2020] EWCA Civ 37 - is available at matrixlaw.co.uk

 

Note: Responding  to a 27 January written question in parliament on the number of claimants who have been identified as eligible for SDP transitional payments, and the timescale for making payments, Justin Tomlinson the Minister for Disabled People said that -

“As of 17 January 2020, 15,397 claims have been paid an SDP transitional payment. To date, over £51.5 million has been disbursed to support former SDP claimants, including the recurring payments that have now commenced.

… It is not possible to estimate when we will have paid everyone who is entitled as some people become entitled to these payments retrospectively, and therefore the caseload is not a fixed number.'”