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​Disabled student wins right to be considered for universal credit

A disabled woman has won her legal claim for the right to be considered for universal credit while she is studying at university.

18 November 2020

The ruling also affects other disabled students who have been refused universal credit.
 
Sidra Kauser, aged 22, from Halifax, is visually impaired and is currently studying for a masters degree at York University.
 
She received Personal Independence Payment (PIP) but that, combined with a student loan, was not enough to provide her with an acceptable standard of living. After payment of her rent, she had £120 a month to live on.  
 
She applied for universal credit, but because she was a student, she was refused a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which meant she was effectively disentitled from claiming universal credit.
 
Sidra applied for a judicial review of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) policy (which stated that disabled students shouldn’t be invited to a WCA), arguing that the law required the DWP to conduct a WCA to determine whether she had limited capability for work, in which case she would be entitled to universal credit.
 
Now, after the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, told the court in July, 2020 that she would not be defending Sidra’s claim, a high court judge has ruled that the SSWP had acted unlawfully and has quashed the decision to refuse Sidra’s claim for universal credit.
 
Sidra will now be given a WCA, and if she is deemed to be unable to work, she will be entitled to make a claim for universal credit.
 
The court ruling also has an impact on those disabled students whose applications for universal credit had previously been unsuccessful because they had been refused a WCA. 
 
However, on 5 August the DWP changed the law so that other disabled students who made a claim for universal credit after that date would not be invited  to a WCA and would not therefore be able to establish their limited capability for work
 
Sidra Kauser said:
 
“I am glad I decided to take a stand and pursue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to refuse me a WCA. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court ruling.”
 
Sidra is represented by Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd, who added:
 
“Sidra made a brave stand against the decision to refuse her a WCA and it has proved successful. It has been estimated by the charity Disability Rights UK that the Secretary of State’s unlawful policy, which has been in operation since 2013, could have adversely affected 30,000 disabled students. Other disabled students who were refused a WCA prior to 5 August 2020 and therefore lost out on their claim for universal credit, should ask the Secretary of State to revise her decision. 
 
“Although the DWP has callously changed the regulations to prevent more disabled students being entitled to a WCA, there may be scope for legal challenge to the new regulations.”
 

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