The High Court will determine if it was legal for the Government to deny almost 2 million people on disability payments the same £1040 annual rise that Universal Credit applicants have received.
The High Court granted Employment Support Allowance applicants permission to appeal the DWP’s decision not to raise their payment in line with Universal Credit in a decision dated 27 April.
The Chancellor proposed a £20 weekly increase to the regular payment of Universal Credit at the start of the pandemic, but this critical boost to welfare was not applied to those on so-called ‘legacy benefits,’ the bulk of which are disabled, ill, or carers.
Two ESA recipients have brought a judicial review case to the High Court to contest this disparity in. They argue that it is unjustifiable and unfair.
The High Court has agreed that this may be arguably illegal and will rule later this year. The Claimants have requested that the trial begin prior to the end of July 2021.
Despite getting an equal right to UC’s’standard allowance,’ 1.9 million people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been denied this rise, which many have dubbed a ‘lifeline,’ over the last 13 months.
Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance recipients have also been affected.
Universal Credit is gradually displacing ‘legacy benefits,’ but the transition will not be complete until at least 2024.
Meanwhile, those receiving legacy benefits face the same financial burdens as those receiving UC, but the DWP has chosen to handle them differently.
William Ford, solicitor for the Claimants, said: “We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.
“This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.
“Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”
Helen Barnard, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who have been campaigning on behalf of legacy benefit claimants as part of their campaign to keep the lifeline of the £20 increase in Universal Credit, said it was “unjust” to deny people claiming legacy benefits the same £20 weekly boost.
“Everyone should have access to a strong social security system that protects them from harm when they are struggling to stay afloat”, she said.
“Disabled people and carers already face a greater risk of poverty, so there can be no justification for offering them less support than people claiming Universal Credit simply because they are in a different part of the system.
“Discrimination has no place in our social security system and every day we fail to act undermines public trust and intensifies hardship. Ministers must right this injustice by urgently extending the £20 increase to legacy benefits.”