Senior judges rule that Theresa May broke the law and probably screwed over thousands of people

may spokesperson

Senior judges from an Upper Tribunal have ruled that Theresa May’s government has been acting illegally. And once again, those affected by the ruling are some of the most vulnerable people in the country. The judgment means that the government has likely been screwing over thousands of disabled people who will now potentially be affected by the ruling.

The case was brought by two people who failed to appeal the decision to stop their Employment and Support Allowance in time. Current Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rules state that the first stage of appealing a decision – a mandatory reconsideration – needs to be lodged within a month.

These claimants didn’t make the deadline because [pdf] of their “extenuating circumstances”; both have mental health issues along with other problems. But the DWP initially refused to hear their appeals or allow them to present their arguments to a tribunal. So with the help of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), they took the case further.

Punishing vulnerable people

The problem with strict time limits for people with health conditions should be obvious. They may have issues that do not always allow them to appeal quickly. And this is something the Upper Tribunal judges thought should be “obvious”:

The reality is that many claimants will be vulnerable for reasons including issues relating to their mental health or learning disabilities. It is obvious that there is a high risk that many of them with good claims on the merits will miss time limits.

The judges expressed ‘concern’ about the present situation where:

a claimant sends the secretary of state a request for a mandatory reconsideration to which the secretary of state responds by stating that the application is late and does not meet the criteria for extending time.

Read on...

And they ruled that:

We have concluded that as a matter of statutory interpretation a claimant in such circumstances has a statutory right of appeal to the first-tier tribunal.

Austerity

The judges also highlighted the role that austerity plays in ‘exacerbating’ the risk of missing deadlines. They stated:

This risk has been exacerbated over recent years by changes in the scope of legal aid and local authority and advice sector provision, and hence the reduction in the numbers of welfare rights officers and others who are readily available to assist claimants with their benefits claims and appeals.

In other words, the government is punishing some of the most vulnerable people in society twice. Firstly, their health means they are not able to comply with the strict rules for benefits. And secondly, they can’t get the help they need to challenge the decisions because so many services have been cut.

‘Real misery’

Since 2010, the Conservative government has implemented an agenda of welfare changes and austerity cuts. These cuts have hit the poorest and most vulnerable people in society the hardest. For example, in June 2017, the High Court ruled that the housing benefit cap could cause some families “real misery” with “no good purpose”.

This tribunal case is yet another example of how badly the Tories treat vulnerable people. And this judgment is yet another indictment of the legacy of this government. The general election result showed that many people are fed up with the cruel austerity policies of the Tories. It’s essential that all of us keep up the pressure. And we all need to push for a political system that doesn’t punish those people who are most in need of help.

Get Involved!

Support Disabled People Against the Cuts

Featured image via screengrab

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed