DWP claimants may get extra £1,550 payment after Universal Credit court case
Nick Ferrari slams DWP's treatment of Universal Credit claimants
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Currently, a High Court case is underway to determine whether the Government’s decision not to expand the £20 uplift to legacy benefit claimants during the pandemic was correct. During the Covid-19 pandemic, claimants of Universal Credit received an £20 top-up to their payments from the DWP to keep households afloat. However, this payment boost was not extended to those on legacy benefits which many critics of the Government believe inadvertently discriminated against disabled people.
Legacy benefits is the blanket term given to older benefit payments such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
As part of the High Court case, which formally started procedures at the Royal Courts of Justice in London this week, two ESA claimants are legally challenging the DWP decision.
It is believed, if successful, their case could result in legacy benefit claimants receiving a back payment of £1,550 after missing out on the Universal Credit uplift.
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The original uplift to Universal Credit lasted from March 2020 to October 2021 and was praised for supporting low-income households survive the toughest periods of the pandemic.
Louise Rubin, the Head of Policy at disability charity Scope, outlined what is at stake for many disabled people up and down the country as a result of this case.
Ms Rubin said: “Whatever the outcome of this court case, it was a mistake to exclude huge numbers of disabled people from the benefits uplift during the depths of the pandemic.
“The decision to withhold support from disabled people who receive legacy benefits caused many to feel abandoned.
“We’re hurtling towards a cost of living crisis, but yet again disabled people are being abandoned by the Government.
“Disabled people already face extra costs of £583 a month on average, and this is set to soar over the coming weeks and months.
“Sky-high inflation and spiralling energy costs will hit disabled households hardest.
“More than four in 10 (42 percent) disabled people who rely on benefits live in poverty. Many disabled people have had to drain any savings they had to get by.
“Yet we’ve heard nothing from the Government about how they are going to stop this inequality. Levelling up means nothing if disabled people are left behind.”
Representing the claimants, Jamie Burton QC is putting forward the argument that DWP’s decision hurt low-income households and disabled people at a time when they needed support the most.
Addressing the court in written submissions, the solicitor said: “This radical and unprecedented departure from many decades of policy intent, achieved with almost no democratic scrutiny and limited analysis of the consequences, has meant hundreds of thousands of seriously disabled people, already disproportionately affected by poverty, have had to get by on historically low rates of subsistence payments during a pandemic that has caused a significant rise in the cost of living for low-income families and disabled people in particular.”
Representing the DWP in the case, Edward Brown said: “Careful consideration has been given to the specific issue, namely whether or not to uplift legacy benefits.
“The reasons why the Government has decided not to uplift legacy benefits are because it would be contrary to the specific fiscal and social policy goals… and it would be inefficient and not capable of delivery via legacy payment systems.
“The measure was introduced quickly and prospectively at the outset of the pandemic in order to mitigate the impact as it became felt.
“As a very substantial investment of public monies, the measure was necessarily targeted in a way that was considered most likely to achieve its social policy goals.
“It is denied that there is any differential treatment on the grounds of disability and none is made out by the claimants.”
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