The Tory rollout of Universal Credit (UC) unlawfully discriminates against disabled people, the High Court ruled last week.
Two disabled men, TP and AR, were forced onto the benefit after moving to an area where it was being rolled out.
They had previously received the Severe Disability Premium and Enhanced Disability Premium, which support severely disabled people who live alone with no carer.
Both lost around £178 a month after moving to UC— and were denied top-up benefits. TP described how a diagnosis of end stage non-Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer at the age of 51 saw his life “completely and suddenly thrown upside down”.
“I became reliant on financial support from the welfare system,” he said. “To add to the stress of being seriously ill and undergoing very arduous treatments that have left me unable to work, I have had to take time off from convalescing to fight in the courts for subsistence level benefits.”
He said the cut in benefits “made it so much harder for me to cope” and was “detrimental to my health”. After the court decision TP says he feels he has been vindicated.
AR said, “So many people have been badly affected by the roll out of Universal Credit. I know it is a time of austerity. But I do not understand why the government are trying to penny-pinch from what is a relatively small and very vulnerable group, namely, severely disabled people without a carer.”
Mr Justice Lewis dismissed a claim that the system broke the Equality Act and that some parts of UC regulations are discriminatory.
But he upheld a claim that denying the men a top up in benefits was discriminatory.
The Tories have said that no claimant will see their benefits reduced by switching to UC if their circumstances don’t change.
And the Department for Work and Pensions said no one receiving Severe Disability Premium will be made to move onto UC.
Yet for all the fake concern for claimants, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has sought permission to appeal against last week’s judgement.
Meanwhile UC continues to be condemned. A National Audit Office report last week said that “many” claimants who have moved onto UC have “suffered difficulties and hardship”.
One DWP survey found that four in ten were experiencing financial difficulties. A quarter of new claims were paid late in 2017— and the average delay was four weeks.
The report also described increases in rent arrears and food bank use since UC was introduced.
PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said the report showed the rollout should be suspended immediately.
The Tories claim the scheme is about saving money and helping people.
In reality it’s geared towards making life even harsher for claimants and terrorising workers into accepting poor conditions.
And the report found that UC has created a number of extra costs for councils and others. But “these extra costs are not included in the Department’s estimates of the programme’s costs”.