The Court of Appeal will next week hear two appeals brought by the government against Universal Credit claimants with severe disabilities. Two men, known as TP and AR have fought for years against the Universal Credit system which left them worse off when they moved local authority area.
The hearing will begin on Tuesday 3 December and has been listed for three days at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Despite having brought two successful legal challenges against the government, and a further challenge which is on hold pending the outcome of the appeals being heard next week, TP and AR are now having to return to court once again to defend their High Court wins and fight against their unfair treatment under Universal Credit.
The first challenge brought by TP and AR was won in the High Court in June 2018. The men had been forced to move onto Universal Credit when they moved into a local authority area where the new benefit system had been rolled out. Under Universal Credit they lost out on the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), leaving them suddenly around £180 a month worse off. This was despite being repeatedly assured they would not be worse off under Universal Credit. The judge found that this was unlawful because those that moved to a different local authority area were being treated differently to those who moved within their local authority area. As a result of their successful legal challenge, the men were paid damages for the pain and suffering caused, compensated for what they had lost and awarded ongoing top-up payments of approximately £180 per month.
The judgment in this first case described a “striking” lack of evidence from the Secretary of State that she had understood or considered the far-reaching consequences for severely disabled people who moved into a different local authority and would be forced onto Universal Credit.
As a result of the first challenge the government attempted to rectify the situation by stopping other severely disabled people migrating onto Universal Credit and therefore abruptly losing out on their SDP and EDP payments. At the same time, they proposed that those, like TP and AR, who had already moved onto Universal Credit would receive transitional top up payments but only at a rate of £80 per month rather than the £180 per month they had actually lost. TP and AR mounted a further legal challenge arguing that short-changing them was unlawful as they were being unjustifiably treated differently to those who had not moved onto to Universal Credit and would continue to receive the full amount of SDP and EDP. The High Court found in their favour. Over 13,000 severely disabled people are known to have lost out due to the Universal Credit arrangements.
Carolin Ott, from Leigh Day solicitors who represents TP and AR, said:
“Our clients are individuals with severe disabilities and precisely the kind of people Universal Credit was supposed to ensure were supported. The High Court found twice that the unjustified difference in treatment they have now been suffering for several years was unlawful.
“It beggars belief that despite two findings of unlawfulness by two different judges, and new Regulations that acknowledge the need for protection for severely disabled individuals losing their severe disability premium, the government is still determined and spending taxpayers’ money to continue to fight these cases. We hope that the Court of Appeal will uphold the ruling made by the High Court in our clients’ favour to ensure the many affected individuals with severe disabilities receive much needed support.”