The DWP has confirmed that Universal Credit recipients will see a big drop in payments from September when a coronavirus cash boost comes to an end.
But it is also facing a court case in the same month as those on other benefits battle to get the same uplift in their own state payouts.
During the 18 months the Universal Credit boost will have been in place, an extra £1,500 will have been awarded to each qualifying individual. Recipients are getting an extra £80 in their monthly standard allowance, or around £20 a week.
If the High Court challenge is successful, it would mean back pay for those on what are called legacy benefits.
These are the ‘old’ benefits that will eventually be replaced by Universal Credit (UC).
The legacy benefits involved in the court case are:
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
Two disabled people on ESA launched the original legal challenge, and have since been joined by one person on Income Support and one on JSA.
Osborne’s Law, representing the claimants, says they argue “the failure to extend the uplift to those on ESA unlawfully discriminated against them as disabled people contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.”
The law firm explained: “UC and the subsistence benefits it is replacing, (e.g. ESA, Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support) all include an allowance for basic living costs (known as the standard allowance for UC and the personal allowance for ESA, JSA and IS).
“These basic allowances had been set at the same rate within UC and those legacy benefits for many years. Until January 2021 many of the more severely disabled people on ESA were not permitted to claim UC instead. As a result of the decision to include a £20 a week uplift in UC, the standard allowance for UC is now significantly higher than it is for ESA and the other legacy benefits.
“But both groups of claimants depend on the basic allowance in their subsistence benefit payments to meet their basic needs.
“Regardless of the reasons for making the decision in March 2020, the claimants argue that it has become increasingly untenable for those claimants on legacy benefits to be treated differently from those on UC as they all face the same consequences of the pandemic.
“To continue to exclude those from legacy benefit from the uplift is risking the establishment of a two-tier social security system.”
William Ford, the 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.”
Mr Ford previously told Birmingham Live that winning the case could mean back pay for legacy benefit recipients if the Universal Credit uplift ends in September.
Additionally, it might mean an ongoing monthly boost to these other benefits if the UC uplift is maintained beyond then, so that they are in alignment.
But it would be up to the DWP to come up with a remedy to the issue, he cautioned, and the court will be unable to order the Government to take any particular course of action.