The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has just lost its fourth court case since December 2017. And with another three ongoing legal cases against the department still outstanding, it could be a long, hot summer for it.
The DWP in the dock
On Thursday 28 June, minister of state for employment Alok Sharma was forced to reveal the outcome of a legal challenge to the DWP at the Court of Appeal. As the Mirror reported, the court has ruled that the Coalition government’s changes to regulations about Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) breached the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
As Sharma put it, a “small, specific group” of people were wrongly denied a right to a “fair hearing” against the DWP’s decision to sanction them. In lay terms: it changed some regulations in 2013, and this meant that claimants the DWP sanctioned between 2011 and 2013 had no right of appeal under the old legislation from 2011.
But the DWP failed to allow for claimants’ appeals that were still ongoing when the regulations changed. Because their appeals were already in motion, they should have been heard under the old regulations. The court ruled that the DWP’s failure to allow them their appeals was a breach of Article Six of the ECHR – the right to a fair trial.
Twitter reacted accordingly:
Govt are now having to amend their own piece of retrospective emergency legislation because they have again found to have illegally broken peoples right to an appeal pic.twitter.com/yxPwNuPzSd
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— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) June 28, 2018
The government has broken the law numerous times over the last 8yrs and they never get punished. Here's a thing, prosecution might reel them in.Starting with the charges of manslaughter for the way they have attacked the sick and disabled.
— Mark lamar 🇵🇸Gaza (@Marklamar20) June 28, 2018
— #FBPE #FBR #TheGlobalResistance (@AngieMeader) June 28, 2018
The government won’t say how many people are affected. But Sharma said he would be using a “Remedial Order” to “ensure” the claimants have their appeals properly heard. Or, to put it another way, the DWP will be frantically backtracking. Again.
All rise. Again, and again, and again…
This is court defeat number four for the department since December 2017. As The Canary has been reporting, the DWP lost one case just before Christmas, meaning it had to review the claims of thousands of people. It then lost another one on 14 June, this time about Universal Credit. And just this week, it lost a sex discrimination case at the EU Court of Justice.
Meanwhile, people have placed at least another three outstanding court cases against the DWP. One involves its Access to Work scheme for disabled people (the claimant says it’s discriminatory). Another involves the Child Poverty Action Group and the two-child limit on tax credits and Universal Credit. And a third is to do with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The repeated court appearances are a damning indictment of the system. One where it seems that claimants’ only line of defence against the department is, increasingly, through legal avenues.
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