UPDATE – This article was updated at 12:45pm on Tuesday 28 August to reflect new information. It previously stated that IM would not be entitled to the £80 a month compensation payment. CPAG informed The Canary that he may now be entitled to it.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is yet again being dragged through the courts over its treatment of two benefit claimants. This time, the cases centre around the DWP’s controversial new benefit, Universal Credit.
The DWP: in the dock again
As Disability News Service (DNS) reported, the charity Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is representing two claimants who are taking legal action against the DWP. Known as IM and TD, their circumstances are separate. But a judge has granted both claimants judicial reviews into the DWP’s treatment of them. The High Court will hear both cases together, because both claimants have lost money due to moving onto Universal Credit.
In IM’s case, the DWP had previously awarded him Employment and Support Allowance, placing him in the Support Group (the higher level of ESA payment). It also gave him the Severe Disability Premium due to the level of his impairments. But after the DWP found him fit-for-work, his ESA ended and he had to make a new claim for Universal Credit; even though he was appealing the fit-for-work decision.
Ultimately, the DWP found it was wrong to declare IM fit-for-work. It now regards him as having limited capability for work-related activity under Universal Credit; the equivalent of the ESA Support Group.
But it has left IM nearly £180 worse off a month. This is because under Universal Credit the Severe Disability Premium doesn’t exist. As The Canary previously reported, another judge found the DWP had committed “unlawful discrimination” by not protecting the payments of people, previously getting the premium, who moved onto Universal Credit. The DWP had already agreed via draft regulations to make back-payments of £80 a month to people who lost out because of moving to Universal Credit.
As DNS reported:
If draft regulations become law, he may be entitled to the partial compensation of £80 a month agreed by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey for those who lost entitlement to SDP when they were forced to move onto universal credit.
The second claimant, known as TD, is a lone parent with a disabled child. As DNS reported:
TD gave up her job to become a full-time carer but had her income support terminated when her child’s disability living allowance (DLA) was about to end and before it could be renewed.
She was also told by the jobcentre to claim universal credit, which she did.
Despite DWP eventually admitting that there had been a mistake, TD is now receiving almost £140 a month less under universal credit than she did when receiving income support.
The High Court is expected to hear the cases in the new year. As DNS reported, the DWP has refused to comment due to the cases being ongoing.
Universal Credit: “beyond being fixed”
A spokesperson for campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told DNS:
Financially, the incentive for DWP is to find as many claimants as possible fit for work.
Even if the decision is overturned, DWP is saving money by transferring claimants to universal credit.
This is clearly just more evidence that universal credit is beyond being fixed.
People already living on poverty-level social security payments are simply and randomly being thrown even further into destitution.
This is now at least the fifth time the DWP has been involved in court action in less than a year. It’s a damning indictment of the department when claimants seem to be left with little choice but to take it to court to try and get what in many cases is the bare minimum entitlement.