Government urged to concede third legal challenge to Universal Credit migration arrangements

By agency reporter
February 21, 2020

The government has been urged to concede a legal challenge relating to the Universal Credit migration arrangements for severely disabled people after losing two previous legal challenges to the same arrangements.

All three challenges relate to those who previously received the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) as part of their benefits and were moved onto Universal Credit (UC) before 16 January 2019. Due to this change, they lost out on around £180 a month and this inequality of treatment has been challenged in the courts by two men known as TP and AR.
 
Following the success of the first legal challenge, the government attempted to rectify the inequality by providing top-up payments to those who had lost out. However, these top-up payments were set at just £80 a month. As a result, TP and AR took a second legal challenge against the government which they won again and the government increased the top-up payments to £120 per month.
 
The government appealed the judgments in both these cases but their appeals were dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 29 January 2020. 
 
The issue in this third claim is whether £120 a month in transitional payments  constitutes unlawful discrimination because those people who moved onto UC before 16 January 2019 are still around £60 a month worse off. On 16 January 2019 the SDP Gateway came into force which prevents any further severely disabled benefits claimants from being forced to move onto Universal Credit until they are subject to a managed migration process which maintains their level of benefits.  
 
In the letter sent on 17 February to the Department for Work and Pensions by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of TP and AR, the two men argue that the only reason the government have given for not compensating them the actual amount they have lost  is cost, and that the Court has already made clear that cost alone cannot justify the differential treatment.
 
This third legal challenge was originally issued in the High Court in October 2019. However, proceedings were then put on hold while the Court of Appeal considered the appeals in the first two legal challenges. Now judgment has been handed down, and the government lost, they are invited to concede the claim and make provisions for transitional payments, including back payments, to the SDP natural migrant group which reflect their actual loss. If this does not occur TP and AR will continue with their legal challenge in the High Court.
 
Tessa Gregory, solicitor at Leigh Day representing TP and AR, said: “The government has now been defeated four times in relation to its treatment of severely disabled people who have moved onto Universal Credit. Our clients believe that now is the time for government to stop wasting money on legal fees, admit defeat, concede this outstanding claim and ensure that all those who have been short-changed are provided with their previous level of benefits.
 
“In order to cut costs, the government has taken money away from some of society’s most vulnerable individuals who desperately need this additional financial support to manage their daily lives.”
 
Leigh Day is continuing to bring a separate group claim, on behalf of those who previously received SDP and/or EDP and moved to Universal Credit prior to 16 January 2019, for the full amount lost as well as compensation for any pain and distress caused by the move to UC. 

* More information and enquiries about the group claim here

* Leigh Day https://www.leighday.co.uk/

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