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High Court challenge to exclusion of nearly two million Disabled people from £20 week benefit uplift

30 April 2021

The High Court is to decide whether it was lawful of the Government not to give nearly 2 million people on disability benefits the same £1040 a year increase that it has given Universal Credit claimants.

At the beginning of the pandemic the Government announced a £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit, but this vital increase to support was not extended to those on legacy benefits, the majority of whom are Disabled people.

Two ESA claimants have now challenged this difference in treatment by way of an application to the High Court for judicial review.

They argue that is it discriminatory and unjustified. The High Court has agreed it is arguably unlawful and will decide the case later this year. The claimants have asked for the trial to be heard before the end of July 2021.

The two ESA claimants are arguing that the SSWP’s failure to extend the uplift to those on ESA unlawfully discriminated against them as Disabled people contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Despite them having an equivalent entitlement to the ‘standard allowance’ of UC, simply because they were in a different part of the system, 1.9 million people on ESA have been without this increase, which many have called a ‘lifeline’, for the last 13 months.

Claimants of income support and JSA have also been excluded.

Universal Credit is slowly replacing ‘legacy benefits’ but the process will not be complete until 2024 at the earliest. Meantime, those on legacy benefits face the same financial pressures as those on UC, and yet the DWP has decided not to treat them in the same way.

Solicitor for the claimants, William Ford of Osbourne Law said:

“We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.

This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million Disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.

Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”

Ken Butler DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser said:

“By restricting the £20 per week increase only to Universal Credit the Government has discriminated against the millions of Disabled people on other benefits.

The judicial review action is great news and if successful will hopefully lead the way for the £20 uplift to be awarded and backdated to all legacy benefit claimants.”

For more information see High Court challenge to denial of benefit increases for nearly 2 million people with disabilities available from osborneslaw.com.

See also Budget 2021: “Outrageous” that over 1.9 million disabled people on legacy benefits refused £20 week financial lifeline available from disabilityrightsuk.org.