Severely disabled benefits claimants call on DWP to compensate thousands who have been unlawfully short changed in benefit payments
Following a conclusive and robust ruling from the Court of Appeal two severely disabled men known as TP and AR have called on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to compensate up to 50,000 vulnerable benefits claimants who have been unlawfully stripped of benefits worth thousands of pounds.
Posted on 03 February 2023
The pair made the call after the DWP’s bid to appeal against a High Court ruling of January 2022 was refused.
Last year the court found that the DWP discriminated against the men when it didn’t compensate them the full £180 a month difference in the amount of money they received on legacy benefits and the amount they were paid in Universal Credit after they moved into an area where the new benefit had already been rolled out.
The latest High Court judgment is the fourth in favour of the pair, who began their legal campaign after they suffered the severe drop in income when they were moved on to Universal Credit in 2016 and 2017 as a result of house moves to areas where Universal Credit was in operation. Before they moved house, the men had each received Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP).
After TP and AR waged a long campaign in the courts, the DWP decided to make up for the loss of SDP but not EDP. It meant that severely disabled people affected by the policy would receive just £120 a month rather than the full monthly loss of up to £180. The court ruled in 2022 that this was discriminatory.
The DWP tried to appeal the 2022 judgment but on 12 January 2023 the Court of Appeal refused permission, making plain that there was no merit in the Government’s arguments and bringing this long running litigation to an end.
TP and AR have now written to Government lawyers to ask the DWP to address the unlawful discrimination without delay. They argue that the DWP must act to compensate up to 50,000 people affected. It is understood this will involve sums of up to £150 million to put right, as many affected were short-changed around £60 per month for several years.
That Court of Appeal ruling also means that the High Court’s judgment in favour of claimants AB and F, a disabled mother and child, represented by Southwark Law Centre, stands. The failure to provide transitional protection against around £150 a month difference in the amount of money they received in lower disabled child element on legacy benefits and the amount they were paid in Universal Credit per disabled child was found by the High Court to constitute unlawful discrimination.
Claimant AR said:
“TP and I have had to fight for justice for 5 years and go to court four times. It is high-time the DWP finally gets this right. The policy has caused me and others serious hardship and now that the DWP has been refused permission to appeal last year’s court ruling, we expect them to pay us back the money we have lost and fix what they have been told repeatedly is discriminatory.”
Tessa Gregory said:
“Our clients have had to fight three judicial review claims extending over a period of more than five years. The Secretary of State should have acted to remedy the unlawful discrimination after the first ruling against her in 2018. Instead, she chose to continue to short-change this highly vulnerable group of individuals and wasted public funds and court time on unnecessary legal proceedings.
“The Court of Appeal’s latest ruling means she has now exhausted all legal avenues open to her. She must take steps to remove the discrimination identified without delay by adopting provisions which reflect the actual loss severely disabled benefit claimants like our clients have suffered.”
Leigh Day instructed Zoe Leventhal KC, and Jessica Jones of Matrix Chambers.
AB and F are represented by Rachel Lovell of Southwark Law Centre and Zoe Leventhal KC, and Darryl Hutcheon of Matrix Chambers.
Tessa is an experienced litigator who specialises in international and domestic human rights law cases