A group of people with disabilities are preparing to bring a legal challenge against the government after losing out on benefits when they were migrated over to the universal credit system.
Law firm Leigh Day has been contacted by around 100 people so far and believes up to 13,000 people could have been affected and have a claim as a result of the problem which affects those that made a claim for Universal Credit before 16 January 2019 and who had previously been claiming Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and/or Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP).
Leigh Day will be seeking damages on behalf of its clients for the full amount of Severe Disability Premium and/or Enhanced Disability Premium that claimants lost when they were moved onto Universal Credit. For instance, a single person previously in receipt of both premiums, who has had to claim Universal Credit, will have lost just over £4,000 in the last year alone. This figure increases to nearly £8,000 for a couple.
On top of this the group will also be claiming compensation from the Department for Work and Pensions for the distress, anxiety, humiliation and disruption to life, which has been caused by the government’s poorly, implemented changes which have led to major upheaval and inconvenience for thousands of people.
This claim follows the success of earlier cases brought by Leigh Day on behalf of two men, TP and AR. In that case, the court ruled that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions unlawfully discriminated against the two men who lost their disability premiums after moving onto the benefit.
The move to Universal Credit, which has resulted in a loss of the disability premiums, has caused a multitude of problems for the severely disabled. Leigh Day has been contacted by people who are now unable to regularly see family or attend appointments as they can no longer afford taxis which they rely on for transport; unable to engage in leisure activities and treatments which significantly improve their mental and physical wellbeing; unable pay for assistance for the cleaning and upkeep of their homes.
Phil Michell, 58, who has a number of mental health conditions, moved to a council-owned bungalow within Devon and was told that he would have to move onto universal credit but that he would not be worse off. However, he now receives approximately £344 less per month.He said:
“It is time for change. Universal credit does not work and leaves some of the most vulnerable in society worse off. I feel like we are being crushed by the government under this travesty of a system and that we are being robbed of our human rights.”
A 35-year-old woman from Surrey, who suffers from mental health conditions and has been left over £2000 a year worse off under the Universal Credit system, said: “Since losing my disability premiums I have faced eviction and have had additional strain put on my health. I previously had someone to help me clean and do shopping on bad days but now haven’t had this for weeks. I have tried all avenues and contacted MPs, the Council and even Ministers, but have had no resolutions. I am fed up with the DWP and I feel betrayed by the Universal Credit system which was supposed to guarantee that no one was worse off.”
Ryan Bradshaw, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: “It is clear that the Universal Credit system is not fit for purpose and will continue to cause suffering to the most vulnerable in society, despite the government’s promise that ‘no-one will be worse off under Universal Credit’. We hope that by bringing these claims we will not just obtain compensation and justice for our clients but also add further weight to the argument that a fundamental overhaul of the social security system in the UK is required before any further harm can be done to our communities.”