Vigil 12:30 – 2:30 Tuesday 19 June
Vigil 12:30 – 2:30 Tuesday 19 June
Update: The Government have been refused permission to appeal this decision
[From Leigh Day Solicitors with permission]
The first legal challenge against Universal Credit has found that the Government discriminated against two men with severe disabilities who were required to claim the new benefit after moving into new local authority areas
14 June 2018
In a landmark judgment handed down today at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Lewis ruled that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled men who both saw their benefits dramatically reduced when they moved Local Authority and were required to claim Universal Credit.
The legal action was brought by our two claimants, known only as TP and AR.
TP is a former Cambridge graduate who worked in the financial sector in the City and around the world. In 2016 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness; Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s disease.
In October 2016 when he became sick he moved temporarily from London to his parents’ in Dorset but after a few months he returned to Hammersmith and Fulham, a Universal Credit full service area, on the advice of his treating clinicians in order to access specialist healthcare.
AR is 36 and suffers from severe mental health issues. In 2017, he moved from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a Universal Credit full service area, as he could no longer afford the property he was living in due to the imposition of the bedroom tax.
Prior to moving, both TP and AR were in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.
Recently released figures from the DWP suggest that 500,000 individuals are in receipt of the SDP . Both the SDP and EDP have been axed and are not available under Universal Credit.
When they moved both TP and AR were required to make a claim for Universal Credit as they moved into local authorities where the controversial new benefit was being rolled out. According to both the men, they were advised by DWP staff that their benefit entitlement would not change.
Despite repeated assurances from the government that “no one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving at the point of migration to Universal Credit where circumstances remain the same” both claimants saw an immediate drop in their income of around £178 a month when they were moved onto Universal Credit.
When they asked for top up payments they were told that Government policy was that no such payments would be paid until July 2019 when managed migration would begin.
As both claimants testified to the court, the sudden drop of income had a devastating impact on them, both physically and psychologically.
TP has been struggling to address his care needs and AR has been unable to afford basic necessities.(see paragraphs 8 and 9 of the judgment)
According to their lawyer Tessa Gregory from the human rights team at Leigh Day: “Nothing about either of the claimants’ disability or care needs changed, they were simply unfortunate enough to need to move local authorities into a Universal Credit full service area.”
Late last year Leigh Day issued judicial review proceedings on the Claimants’ behalf arguing that what had happened was unlawful on three grounds:
A four-day hearing took place on 1 -4 May 2018 during which the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in support of the Claimants’ case.
Today the judge found in the Claimants’ favour on ground 3, noting in the judgment:
“The impact on the individuals is clear. They were in receipt of certain cash payments (the basic allowance and SDP and EDP). They are now in receipt of cash payments which, overall, are significantly lower than the amount previously received. They are a potentially vulnerable group of persons as the Government in its own material recognises. On the material before me, there appears to have been no consideration of the desirability or justification for requiring the individual to assume the entirety of the difference between income related benefits under the former system and universal credit when their housing circumstances change and it is an appropriate moment to transfer them to universal credit. That is all the more striking given the Government’s own statements over a number of years that such persons may need assistance and that there was a need to define with precision the circumstances in which they would not receive such assistance. In all the circumstances of this case, the operation of the implementation arrangements in the way they do is manifestly without reasonable foundation and fails to strike a fair balance”. [para 88]
The judge concludes: “The implementing arrangements do at present give rise to unlawful discrimination contrary to Article 14 ECHR read with Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR….A declaration will be granted that there is unlawful discrimination. The defendant will then be able to determine how to rectify the unlawful discrimination.” [para 114]
Following months of litigation, on Thursday of last week Esther McVey the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, carried out a policy U-Turn and committed the Government to ensuring that no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP will be made to move onto Universal Credit until transitional protection is in place and committing to compensating those like the claimants who have lost out.
Despite this, following hand down of today’s judgment the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has sought permission to appeal, maintaining that there was nothing unlawful with the way the claimants were treated.
Commenting on the case, Tessa Gregory a partner at Leigh Day, who represented both claimants, said:
“This is the first legal test of the roll out of Universal Credit and the system has been found to be unlawfully discriminating against some of society’s most vulnerable.
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that no one in our client’s position will now be moved onto Universal Credit until top up payments are in place, it comes too late as it cannot make up for the months of suffering and grinding poverty our clients and many others like them have already had to endure.
“We call upon Esther McVey to compensate our clients and all those affected without any further delay, and urge her to focus on fixing Universal Credit rather than wasting more public funds appealing this court decision.
“Today’s decision shows again that Universal Credit is not delivering what was promised at the outset. It is not working. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for parents, it’s not working for low-income and part-time employees and it’s not working for the self-employed.
“The government needs to halt the rollout and completely overhaul the system to meet peoples’ needs, not condemn them to destitution. If this doesn’t happen further legal challenges will inevitably follow.”
TP, the first Claimant stated
“In my 51st year my life was completely and suddenly thrown upside down with the diagnosis of a life changing end stage non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer. Having had a successful career I became reliant on financial support from the welfare system. To add to the stress of being seriously ill and undergoing very arduous treatments that have left me unable to work, I have had to take time off convalescing to fight in the Courts for subsistence level benefits. In being compelled to migrate to Universal Credit where I lost the Severe Disability Premium I was deprived of a key mainstay of support for a disabled person living alone with no carer. The financial strain from the cutting of the SDP has made it so much harder for me to cope as it has been an additional daily stress. It has been detrimental to my health.”
“I always believed that I had been treated unfairly and in a discriminatory manner by the DWP, having lost out in this move into Universal Credit. I am delighted that the Courts have concurred that I have been unlawfully discriminated against. I feel vindicated in bringing this important Judicial Review of the DWP’s stance towards me, which also affects numerous others of the most vulnerable people in our society. I am pleased to have been able to have brought this case to the public’s attention, which casts a dark shadow on the fairness of the Universal Credit system.”
AR, the second claimant added
“I know a lot of people have been awaiting the outcome of this hearing as so many people have been badly affected by the roll out of Universal Credit. I know it is a time of austerity but I do not understand why the Government are trying to penny-pinch with what is a relatively small and very vulnerable group, namely, severely disabled people without a carer. I thought we lived in a society where as a vulnerable group we would be protected not unlawfully discriminated against.”
Call for Submissions
Are you an artist, sculptor, film maker working around disability issues?
Would you like your work to play a part in building a Global Resistance Movement of disabled people?
Then here’s how
In July 2018, DPAC will be holding a public event around building a Global Resistance Movement of disabled people.
We need your creativity and energy to help make this happen.
We want to create an event which celebrates our shared experiences and aspirations; and which connects our struggles and campaigns. As a backdrop to this, we would like those attending on the day and taking part from afar to do so in a space filled with creative expressions of our lives and our politics.
We are calling for contributions, large and small to exhibit at the event. Artists can come and be part of our activities or can simply give us access to their material. We will store and exhibit your material and return it to you after the event.
We are asking for:
If your work has supporting materials such as mounts, plinths, frames, description or requires these materials for exhibition, please let us know.
If you would like to find out more or contribute please email. firstname.lastname@example.org
The vitally important High Court judgement will be handed down on Thursday. Anyone who can please join us for a vigil outside the court starting at 9.30 am.
There has been some significant changes announced by the government concerning Universal Credit. In a parliamentary statement yesterday Esther McVile says that the government intends to make the following changes-
The timetable for managed migration has been extended by 1 year. It is now due to run from July 2019 – March 2023. Yet another delay on top of the years and many, many millions of pounds it has already taken
And transitional protection and the severe disability premium- some good news ahead of the court verdict which is expected shortly.
The Government has already made a commitment that anyone who is moved to Universal Credit without a change of circumstance will not lose out in cash terms. Transitional protection will be provided to eligible claimants to safeguard their existing benefit entitlement until their circumstances change.
Today I am announcing four additions to these rules to ensure that Universal Credit supports people into work, protects vulnerable claimants and is targeted at those who need it.
“In order to support the transition for those individuals who live alone with substantial care needs and receive the Severe Disability Premium, we are changing the system so that these claimants will not be moved to Universal Credit until they qualify for transitional protection. In addition, we will provide both an on-going payment to claimants who have already lost this Premium as a consequence of moving to Universal Credit and an additional payment to cover the period since they moved.
Second, we will increase the incentives for parents to take short-term or temporary work and increase their earnings by ensuring that the award of, or increase in, support for childcare costs will not erode transitional protection.
Third, we propose to re-award claimants’ transitional protection that has ceased owing to short-term increases in earnings within an assessment period, if they make a new claim to UC within three months of when they received the additional payment.
Finally, individuals with capital in excess of £16,000 are not eligible for Universal Credit. However, for Tax Credit claimants in this situation, we will now disregard any capital in excess of £16,000 for 12 months from the point at which they are moved to Universal Credit. Normal benefit rules apply after this time in order to strike the right balance between keeping incentives for saving and asking people to support themselves.”
The above changes will be brought in by new regulations in the Autumn (Universal Credit Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations).
We are looking to make contact with families who currently have their Disabled (including SEN) children in mainstream school but are being pressurised into accepting a special school placement by the London Borough of Hackney. We are looking into SEN budgets cuts, which are having a negative impact upon Disabled pupils’ right to mainstream education, and whether the cuts can be challenged.
We are supporting local groups campaigning against SEN budget cuts and their impact upon Disabled children’s education. We are specifically concerned about the implications of the budget cuts upon Disabled pupils’ inclusion in mainstream education. We need to act now – contact Simone Aspis (Policy and Campaigns Coordinator) on 0207 737 6030 or by email.
For more information about the Hackney Crisis in SEN campaign and our support for their campaign work please see our campaigns briefing.
BEING THE BOSS
INTRODUCTION – Who we are and why we are doing a survey
“Being the Boss” is a national network of disabled people who employ their own personal assistants (P.A.s)/support workers or carers. Our central role has been to support disabled people who employ their own Personal Assistants by providing peer support and a coherent voice for them in the wider community. The website and Facebook page are for disabled people who employ PAs no matter how they are funded – it is NOT just for disabled people who are receiving Direct Payments or Personal Budgets from the local authority. See: http://beingtheboss.co.uk/
Since 2010 when the Coalition government introduced Austerity measures we have seen many changes in assessment procedures, funding regimes, criteria, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and an overall undermining of Independent Living.
Given the current climate Being the Boss believe it is essential to establish ourselves as the advocate for disabled people who employ their own personal assistants because all forms of living independent lives is under threat. Alongside maintaining Being the Boss’s existing service/role, we want to build on our experience by making our advocacy role more visible and proactive and extend it to other disabled people facing difficulties with benefits and other areas which impact upon their ability to live independent lives.
To be able to play this advocate role we need to fully understand the national picture on the ground and to establish what are the key issues for those who employ their own personal assistants (P.A.s)/support workers or carers and are currently finding it difficult to live independent lives. To this end we have decided to launch a National Information Gathering Survey and are asking you to participate in it.
We can provide the Survey as a download from our website/Facebook page. Please feel free to be as detailed as you believe to be necessary or simply answer as much or as little as you feel able. Thank you for your time and support.
sadly neither Welsh Labour not the national DPO – Disability Wales whose funding of course comes via Welsh Labour are supporting this vital campaign.
Please find below an important Thunderclap that we should all get involved in to help save the Welsh Independent Living Grant, #SaveWILG.
This grant allows disabled people with high care and support need to live independently and was introduced by the Welsh Government following the closure of the ILF.
Unfortunately, the Welsh Government have decided to follow England’s lead and pass all responsibility for social care to Local Authorities. This cannot be allowed to happen as we all know the problem this has caused to our friends in England. This fight is important to disable people across the UK as if we manage to win the battle in Wales, it will add strength to the arguments for three tier support in England.
This is a vital and easy way for people to get involved with the campaign. Please encourage everyone you know, to take part and spread the message that we all want to save WILG, and deserve to have our voices heard.
The more pressure we can put on the Welsh Government, the better. On June 5th, when the thunderclap is activated, I will be in Cardiff at the Senedd, meeting with the Petitions Committee, Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies, Mark Drakeford AM and Julie Morgan AM.
We want to flood social media, and hope you will be able to spare one minute to help us achieve this aim. If this action succeeds, there will be future thunderclaps held.
Unfortunately, Thunderclap no longer allows targeted messages to prevent individual accounts being bombarded unfairly.
The message that will be shared across Twitter and Facebook reads as follows:
Welsh Labour need to listen to their members and Save WILG for those with high care and support needs across Wales.
Anyone wishing to add memes or postcard photos to their social media accounts, can find plenty via my website or by simply contacting me via the contact page or on social media. I can’t make it much easier for you
Many thanks for your support, and please do not hesitate to click on the following link:
According to Wikipedia, Thunderclap is a platform that lets individuals and companies rally people together to spread a message. The site uses a model similar to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, in that if the campaign does not meet its desired number of supporters in the given time frame, the organizer receives none of the donations. This is referred to as “crowdspeaking”, as Thunderclap and its rival site Daycause use the same terminology.  Backers are required to copy the original message in tweets or social media posts.