It seems people with disabilities are seizing the opportunity granted them by a landmark court ruling – and taking legal action against the government over lost benefit income.
Leigh Day solicitors have sent a pre-action protocol letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey on behalf of no fewer than 275 former claimants of disability benefits who say changes forced on them by the government department deprived them of £170 per month – or more.
They say they lost the cash because they were moved on to Universal Credit before January 2019, when the Department for Work and Pensions introduced the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) Gateway system.
This aims to ensure that people previously entitled to the Severe Disability Premium do not end up worse off when they are transferred to Universal Credit.
The 275 claimants involved say the unlawful implementation of the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) 2014, the SDP Gateway Regulations, January 2019, and the Managed Migrations Regulations 2019 mean they have suffered discrimination, as defined by Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Leigh Day solicitors reckon up to 13,000 disabled people in the UK have been affected by the change and may be entitled to make a claim to retrieve lost benefit payments.
The current litigation appears to follow a Court of Appeal ruling that the government not only discriminated against disabled people moving from Severe Disability Premium onto Universal Credit, but then tried to discriminate against them with the repayments.
The issue was discovered by two claimants, anonymised as TP and AR, whose disability benefits were cancelled when they moved from one local authority area to another. They were put on Universal Credit instead, with £180 per month wiped off the amount they were set to receive.
The government attempted to rectify the situation with regulations which stopped other severely disabled people from moving over to Universal Credit and provided those who had already moved over with back payments.
But in another failure of the kind that has made the Tory government notorious, the disabled men were only paid back at a rate of £80 a month, rather than the £180 that they had lost.
The Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment, agreed with lower courts that the Government had unlawfully discriminated against this cohort of severely disabled claimants.
At long last, it seems, people with disabilities have a chance to get compensation from a Tory government that has persecuted them for more than a decade.
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