More legal challenges to Universal Credit are on the way: by a man whose ESA was stopped when he was unfairly found “fit for work”; and by a single mother who lost her carer benefits as her daughter’s DLA did not continue smoothly.
More information from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) representing the claimants, is below.
Thanks to John Pring, Disability News Service, for this report, which quotes DPAC and WinVisible.
DWP facing court over claimant’s universal credit ‘fit for work injustice’
A disabled man who was unfairly found “fit for work”, and then saw his benefits slashed by almost £180 per month after he was forced onto the government’s new universal credit benefit system, is seeking justice in the high court.
It is the latest in a series of legal cases that have been taken on behalf of disabled benefit claimants against DWP, as a result of a series of welfare reforms introduced under successive Conservative and Conservative-led governments.
The man, known as IM for legal reasons, had been claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), but after undergoing a work capability assessment he was told in March last year that he was no longer eligible for ESA.
His jobcentre advised him to claim universal credit instead, which he did, but he also successfully appealed against the decision to find him fit for work.
Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now accepts that he was unfairly found fit for work and that he has limited capability for work-related activity – the equivalent of being in the ESA support group – he has been treated as a new universal credit claimant.
As a new claimant, he is not entitled to the severe disability premium (SDP) he previously received as a top-up to ESA.
He is also not 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 after their circumstances changed.
IM’s judicial review case has been taken by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has described DWP’s policy as “irrational” and discriminatory.
It has secured permission for a judicial review of the failure to provide IM with transitional protection after his move to universal credit, or, alternatively, the refusal to allow him to return to ESA.
CPAG is taking a similar legal action on behalf of AD, a single mother with a disabled child, which will be heard by the high court alongside IM’s case.
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 two cases are expected to be heard together in the high court early next year.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) welcomed the judicial review and warned that if it was not successful, many other disabled people would be affected in a similar way.
DPAC said DWP was clearly engaged in “another cost-saving exercise”.
A DPAC spokesperson said: “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.”
Claire Glasman, from the campaigning organisation WinVisible – which supports disabled women – said: “Families are being devastated by abolition of income support, which is some recognition of caring work.
“We are contacted by stressed-out mothers at their wits’ end when their children’s DLA and their carer benefits are threatened by the brutal personal independence payment [which is replacing working-age DLA] and universal credit system.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are not able to comment on an ongoing legal case.”
Additional information taken from the CPAG:
The legal cases are known as R (TD, AD and IM) v SSWP CO/590/2018
CPAG is representing, in an application for judicial review, a disabled child and her mother whose legacy benefits were incorrectly ended, forcing her to claim universal credit and lose £146.81 a month (which represents over 13% of their non housing related income).
Under the tax credit system, the disabled child element, paid to children with a severe disability as measured through receipt of disability living allowance, is worth £272.92 a month. However, universal credit only provides such families with £126.11 per month (£146.81 a month less).
“The case is brought on behalf of two claimant households. IM is a single adult who, on account of his disability, was in receipt of employment support allowance (“ESA”). His ESA was terminated in March 2017 after he failed a work capability assessment. When he went to his local jobcentre, he was advised to claim UC which he did. He subsequently was successful in his appeal against the ESA decision. Nevertheless, while he was awarded a backdated amount for the limited capability for work related activity element under UC, he is worse off under UC than under ESA by almost £180 per month because the severe disability premium is not carried across to UC. Despite the successful appeal, he is not able to return to ESA nor is his UC award topped up to the level it would have been under ESA.”
“TD and AD are mother and daughter. TD, a single parent, gave up her work as a laboratory chemist to care full time for AD. AD currently receives DLA at the middle rate care component and lower rate mobility component. TD was in receipt of income support and carer’s allowance. However, when AD’s DLA award was about to end and before the renewal application had been processed, TD’s income support was terminated because her carer’s allowance was due to end. AD made inquiries at the local jobcentre and was advised to claim UC which she did. Subsequently, she put in a request for official error revision given that her income support should have continued on the basis that she was the carer of a person who had claimed DLA and a decision was still pending on that claim. DWP accepted that there had been an error but were only prepared to pay arrears between the date of the income support award ending and the UC award starting. Despite the successful revision, TD received almost £140 per month less under UC than under legacy benefits because the additional amount received under UC for a disabled child is less than the equivalent addition under child tax credit other than for the most severely disabled children.”