The High Court ruled today that the government’s Universal Credit migration arrangements for those who previously received the Severe Disability Premium and moved onto Universal Credit before 16 January 2019 are unlawful. If the arrangements had been allowed to go ahead they would have left over 10,000 severely disabled people around a £100-a-month worse off.
The case was brought by two men with severe disabilities, known as TP & AR, represented by Leigh Day and a woman, known as SXC, also with severe disabilities represented by Central England Law Centre.
TP and AR argued in their legal case, heard in the High Court on 12 and 13 March, that the government’s provisions for individuals who moved onto Universal Credit before the so-called ‘SDP Gateway’ are discriminatory.
The SDP Gateway came into force on 16 January 2019 and prevents any further severely disabled benefits claimants from being forced to move onto Universal Credit until they are subject to a managed migration process.
Under the government’s regulations those who moved onto Universal Credit before the SDP Gateway came into force would be provided with only £80 per month in compensation, whereas individuals who would be managed migrated would receive a top-up of £180 per month. The £180 reflects the amount actually lost when people move onto Universal Credit.
The provision under challenge that sets the level of compensation at £80 has not yet come into force but if it came into force in the form proposed by the government, the 10,000 plus severely disabled persons who moved onto Universal Credit before 16th January 2019 would receive significantly less in benefits than those who moved afterwards despite their needs as severely disabled people being the same.
TP & AR argued that this difference in treatment is not justified. The High Court has agreed with them and ruled the provision unlawful.
TP and AR were successful in a previous case last year where the High Court ruled that the government had unlawfully discriminated against them when their benefits were dramatically reduced when they moved Local Authority and they were required to claim Universal Credit. As a result of that case TP & AR currently receive the full £180 a month top up to their benefits. However, if the new provisions had come into force this would have been reduced to £80 a month.
TP and AR said in a statement after the ruling:
“After the high court judgment last year, we thought we had finally forced the government to ensure that people with severe disabilities who had to move onto Universal Credit from the old system would not be without adequate protection or worse off. However, we then learned that the Government was proposing to short-change us and thousands of other severely disabled persons by around £100 a month. It is extremely frustrating that we have had to fight these cases through the
Courts when it is clear to all that the government’s unfair and dysfunctional universal credit system is indefensible.”
Tom Short, solicitor, who is working on the case with Carolin Ott, both from law firm Leigh Day, said:
“We are delighted that our clients have once again triumphed in their struggle against the Government’s discriminatory Universal Credit policies. It is, however, a matter of grave concern that our clients and other vulnerable individuals should have faced such blatant discrimination by the government, particularly when the High Court had already ruled in their favour in an earlier challenge.
“In January, Amber Rudd promised to take a fresh approach to Universal Credit and so we had hoped she would listen and address our clients’ concerns but she refused to and insisted on wasting more public money fighting this case in the courts. It is high time that the Government pauses to make a real, concerted effort to remedy the failings of Universal Credit, and ensure it is fit for purpose and fair to all before it is rolled out any further.”