William Eichler 23 January 2019

Disabled Universal Credit claimants take DWP to court for ‘irrational’ decision

Two households affected by disability are challenging the Department for Work and Pensions in court after being forced to move to Universal Credit and losing hundreds of pounds as a result.

The claimants, one of whom was the mother of a severely disabled child, had their legacy benefits stopped and were forced to claim UC. This left one almost £140 per month worse off, while the other lost £180 per month.

Both claimants challenged the decision and it was ruled that the DWP had been wrong to stop their legacy benefits. However, UC rules prevented them from being able to return to their pre-UC benefits.

In the future there will be cash top-ups to prevent anyone from losing out as a result of the transition to Universal Credit. This ‘managed migration’ is, however, yet to start.

The charity Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is challenging the DWP on behalf of the two households in the High Court today and tomorrow. They will argue the policy is ‘irrational’ since the claimants’ circumstances have not changed.

The charity has also warned that the policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on disabled claimants because incorrect decisions that a claimant no longer qualifies for sickness or disability-related benefits are more common than for other benefits.

Commenting ahead of the hearing, Child Poverty Action Group’s solicitor Carla Clarke said: ‘The Government has consistently said no-one will be worse off if they move to universal credit without a change of circumstances. But our clients suffered significant income drops.

‘Neither chose to claim Universal Credit — they were forced to, following incorrect decisions by DWP. Neither had any change of circumstances other than DWP making decisions in relation to their previous benefits which it ultimately recognised were incorrect and overturned.

‘Yet DWP’s policy has left them stranded on Universal Credit, unable to return to their legacy benefits and yet without the protection against cash losses that people will have when they are moved from legacy benefits to Universal Credit under the managed migration process.

‘We say what happened to them is both irrational and unlawful discrimination, treating them less favourably purely on account of DWP’s own incorrect decisions. To their credit, they are bringing the case to stop any more claimants from having to take the fallout of DWP’s poor decision-making.’

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We are unable to comment on an ongoing legal case. Universal Credit is a force for good and over 1.6 million are receiving the benefit successfully.’

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