In the first successful challenge to Universal Credit, the High Court has today found that the way in which the regime of Universal Credit has been rolled out to Severely Disabled Persons amounts to unlawful discrimination, contrary to Article 14 ECHR together with Article 1 Protocol 1 ECHR.
The benefits regime in question is very complex and what follows is only a general summary of the position. Under the old benefits system, Severe Disability Premium (“SDP”) and Enhanced Disability Premium (“EDP”) were paid to Severely Disabled Persons living alone without a carer. Those premiums have been abolished within Universal Credit such that new Universal Credit claimants cannot be awarded them.
The Claimants were Severely Disabled Persons who had been receiving SDP and EDP. Having subsequently moved into areas in which the Universal Credit system applied (Mr P in order to be close to his cancer specialists and Mr R in order to avoid the bedroom tax), they were forced to apply for Universal Credit to cover their housing costs. This had the effect of immediately abolishing their pre-existing claims to SDP and EDP. The net result of this was that they received over £170 less per month than under the previous system.
This reduction in monthly income had a substantial impact on their ability to meet their most basic of needs.
In his judgment, Lewis J found that forcing these individuals to claim Universal Credit, and thereby suffering a loss of over £170 per month, simply because they moved local authority areas was manifestly without reasonable foundation. This was in contrast to similar individuals who moved house within a local authority who would not be forced to claim Universal Credit. Despite the Government repeatedly saying that there would be no cash losers as a result of such individuals transitioning onto Universal Credit, there was nothing to suggest that it had considered the situation of Severely Disabled Persons moving house across local authority boundaries.
Yaaser Vanderman represented the Claimants.