The Department of Labor and Pensions could be forced to repay £ 1,560 to around 2.4 million people for benefits after being accused of “radical and unprecedented deviation” from its own policies.
It’s the second and final day of a high court hearing to decide whether people receiving other government benefits should have received the same coronavirus boost as Universal Credit.
A lawyer said the decision not to grant the Covid top-up to other applicants struggling during the pandemic was “incompatible with their human rights.”
The advantages associated with the legal process are:
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- social care
- Income-related unemployment benefit (JSA)
These are known as legacy benefits because they are to be abolished and replaced by the much newer Universal Credit system.
READ MORE: DWP Offers £ 9,000 Income Boost That Opens The Door To 8 More Benefits Valued By Thousands
Around 2.4 million people would stand in line to receive the extra money.
That is 1,846,000 people applying for employment and support allowances, 264,000 jobseeker allowances and a further 247,000 people applying for social assistance.
At the heart of the legal process is the fact that Universal Credit granted applicants an additional £ 1,040 per year in coronavirus cash at the start of the pandemic. That came in the form of £ 86 a month on top of their standard allowance, which is about £ 20 a week.
This continued for the first six months of the 2021/2022 financial year from April to September. This means the UC recipients had a total of £ 1,560 extra when the boost ended in October. These other beneficiaries want a similar amount.
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Two disabled people at ESA launched the original legal challenge and since then one person for income support and one for JSA have joined. The hearing began on Wednesday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Her lawyer, Jamie Burton QC, argued that the difference in treatment was incompatible with her human rights.
In written statements, he said: “This radical and unprecedented departure from decades of political intentions, achieved with almost no democratic scrutiny and limited impact analysis, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of severely disabled people who are already disproportionately affected by poverty, during a pandemic, which has led to a significant increase in the cost of living, especially for low-income families and disabled people, to get by with historically low subsistence rates. “
Mr Burton said the pandemic-induced deprivation had disproportionately affected disabled people and that disabled people receiving means-related benefits are “significantly more likely” to receive older benefits than UC.
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Edward Brown, DWP representative, said the UC survey was “an appropriate and effective response to society’s plight since March 2020”.
In his written submissions, he said: “The specific question has been carefully considered, namely whether the contaminated sites should be collected or not.
“The government has decided not to increase the old benefits because this would contradict the specific financial and social policy goals … and would be inefficient and not able to provide through old payment systems.”
The barrister said several features of UC were intentionally different from previous performance and there was no obligation on the government to keep policies the same.
Mr. Brown continued, “The measure was introduced quickly and prospectively at the start of the pandemic to mitigate the noticeable effects.
“As a very substantial investment of public money, the measure was inevitably designed in such a way that it is most likely to achieve its socio-political goals.”
“It is disputed that there is disparity in treatment and applicants will not claim any,” he added.
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The plaintiffs who started the case were supported by several campaign groups as well as former shadow women and equality secretary Marsha de Cordova.
She told the PA news agency, “I am annoyed that these two people have to go through a legal challenge and that’s why I call them brave and brave. “
The Battersea MP continued, “It was just cruel and inhumane not to apply this £ 20 increase to nearly two million people, of whom in some cases two million are the most vulnerable.
Louise Rubin, Director of Disability Equality Policy at Scope, said: “Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, it was a mistake to exclude large numbers of disabled people from the benefit upgrade during the depths of the pandemic.
“The decision to refuse assistance to disabled people receiving inheritance benefits left many feeling abandoned.”
READ MORE: DWP warns against recourse to services for Covid in new rules for ESA payments
Paul Spencer, Policy and Campaign Manager at Mind, said, “People who receive benefits have told us that they have no hope of their future. This is unacceptable.
“The UK government needs to end this two-tier benefit system by backdate payments to the hundreds of thousands of inheritance benefits who have come by in the past 18 months because they were not considered important enough for the survey.”
The case, which will be heard by Mr Justice Swift, is due to be closed today.
A DWP spokesman said, “It has always been the case that legacy beneficiaries can apply for Universal Credit if they think they are better.”
However, those receiving older benefits say that voluntarily switching to Universal Credit means the amount of benefits they will receive will be much lower.
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