Legacy benefits claimants are returning to court to defend their rights to universal credit and keep their payments in line. Four disability claimants took the government to court over their refusal to increase their benefits by PS20 per semaine, along with universal credit claimants in the pandemic. Lawyers and activists described the High Court’s decision as “national scandal” that “directly discriminates against disabled people”. The claimants applied for permission to appeal the decision. It will be heard by Court of Appeal on Wednesday, December 7.
What are legacy benefits?
Legacy benefits include welfare payments like employment and support allowance. They are usually claimed by disabled and sick people who are unable to work. Legacy benefits are paid to people who have already claimed them. It is impossible to make another claim for these benefits, but many people still receive them today. Six legacy benefits are available: income-based job seeker allowance, income-related work and support allowance and income support. These include housing benefit, income credit, child tax credit, and working tax credit. You will be able to claim universal credit if you are claiming one of these benefits before December 2024.
What was the PS20 universal credit increase?
The government instituted a temporary PS20 weekly rise for those who received universal credit or working tax credits at the beginning of lockdown 2020. This was to help those in need as the economic impact of the pandemic on the country meant that it would be temporary.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation stated at that time that the uplift and increased support for workers would “take hundreds of thousands out of poverty”. The increase was not applicable to all benefits including income support, employment support allowance, and jobseekers’ allowance. Many legacy benefit claimants were not eligible for PS1,500 worth of payments.
Initial plans were for it to end in April 2021. However, Rishi Sunak extended it until September. Rishi Sunak, the Conservative party conference speaker, confirmed that the increase had been rescinded on October 6.
Why did legacy benefit claimants bring the DWP to trial?
Osbornes Law represented four people who were receiving disability benefits and brought the DWP to trial in 2021. They were opposed by a team made up of lawyers from Osbornes Law. The “ongoing discrimination in treatment between people in receipt universal credit and those who receive legacy benefits was discriminatory” was argued by the Osbornes Law team. This went against the European Convention on Human Rights. Legacy benefits are more popular than universal credit for disabled people.
What was the High Court’s decision?
In April 2021, the High Court granted the case and in November, a final hearing took place. Osbornes Law states that the High Court accepted the existence of discrimination against disabled people receiving legacy benefits, but that the judge found this to be justified.
In February 2022, the claimants lost a legal challenge to the High Court. Mr Justice Swift acknowledged that it was obvious that anyone who relied only on this income level would suffer hardship. However, he denied that the policy was discriminatory and ruled in favor of the government.
Jamie Burton, a lawyer at Doughty Street Chambers who argued the case, stated that the decision would cause misery upon misery for hundreds and thousands of people.
He added that this is a national scandal. It should never be forgotten that the social security system we have is deliberately inefficient to the point where it is unfit for its purpose. The system is prone to extreme poverty, and it was even more severe during the pandemic.