Fresh hope for legacy benefit claimants denied £20 per week universal credit uplift

Four legacy benefit claimants have been granted permission to appeal an earlier High Court decision which decided in favour of the DWP.

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On February 18, 2022, the High Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by four claimants who argued that the Government should have given legacy benefit claimants the £20 weekly uplift that had been given to Universal Credit (UC) claimants during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The matter will now move forward to the Court of Appeal for hearing after permission to appeal the High Court’s decision was granted.

The standard allowance component of UC rose by £20 per week from 30 March 2020 to 5 October 2021.

However, recipients of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or other “legacy benefits,” such as income support or Job Seeker’s Allowance, were denied a similar increase.

Two ESA claimants, while the other two received income support and JSA, contested this disparity in treatment by requesting judicial review from the High Court, claiming it was unfair since it discriminated against disabled people.

Around two million ESA applicants would have received a total of £1,500 in back payments if the legal case had been successful.

The exclusion of ESA claimants from the £20 weekly increase, according to the High Court, was not illegal discrimination that violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Therese Coffey MP
Work and Pensions Secretary, Therese Coffey MP. Photo: UK Parliament.

According to Mr. Justice Swift, who dismissed the lawsuit, indirect discrimination against these disabled persons had “objective justification” and was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” permitted under the Equality Act 2020.

He agreed with the reason offered by Therese Coffey (pictured above), secretary of state for department for work and pensions (DWP), that the UC increase was designed to offer additional assistance to people who had lost their jobs owing to the pandemic and were compelled to file for UC for the first time.

Even though the court heard testimony showing people who were new to receiving benefits often had higher rates of savings and were, thus, better able to cover the expenses of the pandemic than existing claimants, he decided in favour of DWP.

News that an appeal has now been granted will bring fresh hope to those who missed on extra financial support, but there remains no guarantee of success.

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