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Mind responds to legal challenge against UK Government for not awarding two million disabled people the £20 a week uplift to legacy benefits during the pandemic

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 Mind

Legal challenge starts against UK Government for not awarding two million disabled people the same £20 a week uplift given to Universal Credit recipients as cost-of-living soars

  • Two disabled people begin legal challenge against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which could result in a back payment of £1,500 for millions of people receiving benefits, including many people with mental health problems
  • The cost of living surged by 4.2 per cent in October - the highest rate in almost 10 years - due to rising fuel and energy costs, according to new data.
  • Members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) alongside Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) gathered outside the High Court this morning for a vigil to demand justice for disabled people
  • People with mental health problems tell Mind they have struggled to get by during the pandemic without the additional support, but a back payment could help them re-build their lives

Starting today, the High Court is hearing a case brought by two disabled people claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The case states the UK Government acted unlawfully by denying nearly two million disabled people the same emergency increase of £20 a week that was given to those on Universal Credit to help them survive the pandemic.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, people receiving Universal Credit received the increase of £20 per week to help deal with the extra costs incurred during the pandemic. However, this lifeline was not extended to those on ‘legacy’ benefits such as ESA - many of whom are disabled. An increasing number of disabled people struggled to afford food, rent and medication as the pandemic wore on.

Mind is one of several charities calling for everyone who was excluded from the £20 uplift to receive a backdated payment to help them cope with the increased cost of living and get through the winter.

Research by Mind revealed that people with mental health problems living in a household in receipt of benefits were among those who have been - and still are - worst affected by the pandemic. A survey of 2,654 people in receipt of benefits revealed:

  • Nearly half of those in receipt of benefits said their mental health was made much worse by their financial situation.
  • Only around one in four (28 per cent) currently receiving support from benefits surveyed by Mind said they were feeling hopeful about the future.
  • Those receiving benefits were more than twice as likely to have used self-harm as a coping mechanism as those not receiving benefits. (22 per cent vs 10 per cent)

Paul Spencer, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said:   

“The UK Government’s decision not to extend the £20 uplift to people receiving other benefits such as Employment Support Allowance (ESA) has meant tens of thousands of people with mental health problems have gone without support when they need it most.

“Mental health problems can be hugely debilitating and for those of us who are too unwell to work, benefits can be a lifeline. The UK Government has a responsibility to protect us, but our support has been cut off at a time we need it most. An extra £20 a week isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity to be able to afford the essentials, to be able to heat and eat, and yet thousands of people have been denied this against a backdrop of sharp increases to the cost of living.

“People in receipt of benefits told us they do not feel hopeful about their future. This is unacceptable. Disabled people should have the same opportunities and support as everyone else. The UK Government must end this two-tier benefits system, by backdating payments to the hundreds of thousands of people on legacy benefits, who have been scraping by for the last 18 months because they were not deemed important enough for the uplift.”

Danny is 47 and lives in London. Danny experiences anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia. He currently receives Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Danny says:

“I have suicidal thoughts, have had NHS treatment for my mental health and tried to get by on zero-hour contracts but they haven’t been enough to cover my rent and living costs.  I rarely go out of the house because of my mental health – although physically I’m able to, my mental health is debilitating.

“The pandemic has been especially isolating and made it difficult to get by, as I have not received any extra support. I have worked hard for many years, but now my mental health prevents me from earning enough to live on. I don’t receive Universal Credit because I fear the impact of the five-week-wait to switch onto it and how I would manage in the gap. An extra £20 a week to my disability benefits, however, would allow me to pay for additional support to help with my agoraphobia and help rebuild my life again.”

We're urging UK Government to end the two-tier social security system by backdating this payment. #MillionsMissingOut #20More4All

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