DWP court case could see millions get £1,500 payments

The Royal Courts of Justice and the DWP logo
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is back in court next week. The case could see the department forced to pay millions of people over £1,500 each. However, the situation is not that straightforward, because this DWP case has been ongoing for over a year.

DWP: uplift for some

During the pandemic, the DWP increased Universal Credit by £20-a-week. But it did not do the same for people on so-called legacy benefits. This included social security like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Disability rights activist Paula Peters previously told The Canary:

the Tories completely overlooked and ignored legacy benefit claimants during the pandemic. Many of these 2.2 million claimants are disabled people. Some were also shielding. Living costs rose and disabled people couldn’t afford the most basic standard of living…

We just want to live with dignity and respect.

However, the DWP has not gone unchallenged on the issue.

There was discrimination, but ‘meh’

Several claimants brought a court case against the department over the issue. Represented by solicitors including Osbornes Law, the claimants argued that the DWP paying extra money to some people and not others was discriminatory – specifically against disabled people.

In November 2021, a court looked at the claimants’ case – and dismissed it in favour of the DWP. Osbornes Law wrote that:

Read on...

Whilst the Court accepted that there was discrimination towards disabled people on legacy benefits, the Judge ruled that the difference in treatment was justified. Mr Justice Swift (giving judgment in this case) accepted the justification put forward by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (“SSWP”), that the increase to the standard allowance of UC [Universal Credit] was done with the intention of providing additional support to those people who lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and were forced to claim UC for the first time. Mr Justice Swift accepted that using the increase in UC to cushion the loss of employment or reduction in income was a legitimate objective.

Of course, the DWP’s argument is slightly different from what the government said before. The then-chancellor Rishi Sunak told Martin Lewis in 2021 that the DWP’s:

original rationale for doing the temporary uplift in Universal Credit [UC] was to help… people in work but on lower incomes, whose incomes were going to be affected by the [pandemic] crisis.

So, which was it? Did the DWP uplift Universal Credit for people who’d lost their jobs, or people whose incomes reduced? Now, the claimants and their lawyers are appealing exactly this.

Appealing the irrational

As the Daily Record reported:

One of the litigant’s involved in the challenge confirmed on social media that the legal team representing the four benefit claimants will present their case to the Court of Appeal on Wednesday December 7, 2022. The post, shared on Twitter, said: “I can now confirm that I have had word from legal counsel today that the hearing in the appeal of the #LegacyBenefits case will be held on 7th December 2022.”

If the claimants’ appeal is successful, the DWP could have to pay around £1,500 in backdated money to people. Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said in a press release:

There are in excess of 2.2 million people claiming legacy benefits, yet there has been no focus on their exclusion in the mainstream media, who instead have centred on Universal Credit claimants. This case was brought by claimants who were excluded from the £20 uplift and they are fighting for equal treatment for all legacy benefit claimants.

Winning this appeal would mean that the DWP would have to pay the value of the uplift received by Universal Credit claimants to legacy claimants as well, and a lump sum payment, particularly during the costs crisis could provide vital financial relief for millions of disabled people in poverty.

Whether or not the judge sees sense this time around remains to be seen. It should seem fairly clear cut to most people: the DWP treated workers differently to disabled people who cannot work – ergo, discrimination. However, in the world of the DWP and the UK legal system, that doesn’t mean anything. So, millions of people will await the outcome of this latest battle against the DWP.

Featured image via Dan Perry – Flickr, resized to 770×403 under licence CC BY 2.0, and Wikimedia 

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