The High Court has found that the Government unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled anonymous individuals, known as TP and AR, who lost support from benefits under Universal Credit.
At the moment, some disabled people who live alone or with another disabled person are eligible for a higher rate of benefits - either a ‘Severe Disability Premium’ or an ‘Enhanced Disability Premium’. Both TP and SR were previously receiving severe disability premiums until they moved respective addresses and had to make new claims for Universal Credit. As a result, they lost this much-needed additional support, despite being assured by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that this wouldn’t happen.
TP and AR were represented by solicitors firm Leigh Day, and Mind provided a witness statement to support the two individuals– highlighting the impact that losing premiums, and the fear of losing premiums, has had on people with mental health problems. Following the hand down of the judgment, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has sought permission to appeal.
Last week the Government released statistics that showed at least 4,000 disabled people receiving the Severe Disability Premiums are worse off as a result of the move to Universal Credit. They said they will repay the thousands of people who’ve lost out and will make sure that those currently receiving these premiums won't have to move onto Universal Credit until there are protections in place. People making entirely new claims to Universal Credit will still no longer be eligible for any premiums.
Welcoming this ruling, Michael Henson-Webb, Head of Legal at Mind, said:
“It’s completely unacceptable that the Government has been unlawfully discriminating against disabled people and people with mental health problems – people who they find themselves at their most unwell, unable to work, and in need of financial support from our benefits system.
“The Government has already announced that anyone who has lost their Severe Disability Premium under Universal Credit will be reimbursed but we are seeking urgent clarification on when this will happen. We also need to ensure that nobody else loses out if for any reason they have to make a new claim for Universal Credit but their needs remain the same.
“This is yet another example of how Universal Credit has been failing to support people with mental health problems in the way that it should. The premiums were introduced so that disabled people who live independently could get the support they need to make ends meet. Many people with mental health problems rely on this money to get to appointments, to see friends and family, and to live independent lives. If the Government is really committed to supporting people with mental health problems to have control over their own lives, they must reintroduce these premiums for anyone making a claim to Universal Credit.”