The government has been defeated in a landmark court case against “discriminatory” legislation. And the victory could open the floodgates for up to 164,000 people to claim what is rightfully theirs.
A landmark win
The claimant, known as “RF”, brought the case against the government because she believes changes this year to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will have a “significant negative impact” on her life. The case was specifically against Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke and changes to PIP regulations.
And the judges agreed with RF, ruling that the regulations were discriminatory and must be quashed. The ruling won’t come into force until the Court of Appeal decides whether the government can challenge the judgement.
Co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Linda Burnip told The Canary:
We are pleased with the judgement. It will make a huge difference for thousands of disabled people with mental health support needs. We have to remember that this challenge is taken in a context when the UN… found systematic and grave violations of disabled people’s rights a year ago. And again in August it called the situation disabled people are in a ‘human catastrophe’. The UN specifically called on the government to repeal changes to PIP regulations because they breach our human rights under the Convention.
The Canary asked the Department for Work and Pensions for comment. A spokesperson said:
PIP replaced a system that was less generous for people with mental health conditions and is designed to consider the broader picture of how someone’s life is affected by their disability or health condition. We are disappointed the judgement fails to recognise that PIP provides more support to people with mental health conditions than ever before.
As The Canary previously reported, two tribunal judges ruled that the criteria for awarding PIP payments were insufficient, specifically for people who live with “overwhelming psychological distress” when travelling alone. But the government disagreed and introduced emergency legislation to block the judges’ legal rulings. Its own analysis showed that this would deny the enhanced rate of PIP to 164,000 people [pdf, p36]. And it was this legislation that RF was challenging.
Inclusion London said:
This is a hugely important case. It challenges the discriminatory way the government treats Disabled people with mental health support needs. The outcome can make a difference to thousands upon thousands of Disabled people.
And as Disability News Service (DNS) reported, RF’s solicitor Sara Lomri said:
[RF] has told me that losing enhanced PIP mobility means she will not be able to get the support she needs to travel. This will have a huge impact on her ability to participate in society and her independence.
People who cannot carry out a journey because of a visual or cognitive impairment are likely to need more support than someone who experiences psychological distress when they undertake a journey, for example as a result of social phobia or anxiety.
In other words, the government is claiming that people living with mental health issues are in less need of support than those with a physical disability.
The government in chaos
But now, this has been effectively quashed, although the government will likely appeal the decision. For the time being, though, 164,000 people have been given a Christmas present they probably weren’t expecting. And Theresa May’s government has got another major headache coming in the new year.
This article was updated at 3:40pm on Thursday 21 December to reflect a statement from the Department for Work and Pensions.