Blind student 'among 30,000 denied Universal Credit payouts'

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Blind student 'among 30,000 denied Universal Credit payouts'

A blind student is taking the government to the High Court after ‘being denied thousands of pounds’ in Universal Credit.

Sidra Kauser was left stranded by a loophole that campaigners say could affect 30,000 students across the country.

The 22-year-old had to switch from disability benefit ESA to its replacement Universal Credit when she moved accommodation last year.

Unlike most students, those who have “limited capability for work” are able to claim Universal Credit.

But Sidra was told she could not undergo a fit-for-work test – because she is a full-time student. That meant she couldn’t be labelled as “limited capability”, so couldn’t get UC.

She told The Mirror: “You can’t be eligible until you have the assessment – but if you’re a student, you can’t be assessed. It’s so frustrating.”

Sidra, from Halifax, who is studying a Masters in Psychology at University of York, is now applying to the High Court for permission for judicial review.

She will argue the policy is unlawful after she was left paying for food, clothes and travel from the separate disability benefit PIP, and forced to borrow money from her family.

Sidra said she has the progressive eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, can barely see out of one eye and cannot see at all out of the other. She says she has also been diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

She said: “A lot of my friends have part-time jobs and that’s not something that would be feasible at all for me.

“I pay for taxis and transport, assisted tech and it all adds up.

“In my studies, everything takes longer. It can take me hours to do what might take someone else half an hour.”

The group Disability Rights UK believes the legal action, if approved by the courts, could help up to 30,000 disabled students in a similar position.

Campaigners argue there has been a major loophole in the system since at least 2017.

Full-time students in “advanced” education cannot claim UC except in some circumstances, including disability or having a child.

A 2019 document confirms full-time students who have “limited capability for work” can get UC – but only if they’ve “already” been given that status.

If they haven’t completed a fit-for-work test by the time they start studying, they can’t claim Universal Credit, the government paper says.

Ken Butler of Disability Rights UK said: “Disabled people face additional costs than those without a disability – on average it amounts to £583 a month.

“And unlike their non-disabled peers, disabled students are less likely to be able to find and undertake work.

“It is only appropriate and fair that disabled students should be able to claim universal credit.”

Sidra believes if she qualified for UC, she would get £540 to £680 a month.

Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd said she would argue the policy is “grossly unfair”.

She said: “Most full-time students in higher education do not qualify for Universal Credit because one of the conditions of entitlement is that a claimant must not be in education.

“Students, including disabled students and those with health conditions, access fees and living costs support for their higher education courses through various loans and grants funded through the student support system.

“It is important that Universal Credit does not duplicate this support, which is designed for their needs unlike the welfare system.”

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