Paul Scully grilled by host on Universal Credit cuts
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In a couple of weeks time, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will face benefits claimants’ who are fighting to receive the same financial boost given to Universal Credit.
Earlier this year, the High Court granted permission to two claimants on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to fight the DWP’s decision to only allow an uplift to Universal Credit during the pandemic.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Universal Credit claimants were given an extra £1,040 a year in financial support.
This amount equates to around £20 a week or £80 a month for claimants over the space of a year.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed this uplift would be continuing for the first six months of the 2021/2022 financial year from April to September.
When the uplift ends, Universal Credit claimants will have had an extra £1,500 boost to their finances, which other benefit claimants – who get ‘legacy benefits’ – are seeking.
Lawyers representing the claimants have confirmed all evidence has now been submitted and two more claimants have joined the case, one on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and another on Income Support, respectively.
Both of these benefit schemes are set to be phased out and replaced entirely by Universal Credit.
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Speaking to BirminghamLive, William Ford, a solicitor from Osbourne Law and representative of the claimants, shared that a final hearing would be held on 28th to 29th September.
Originally, the claimants legal team had hoped the case would have been brought forward in July this year.
Mr Ford said: “The case centres on a claim of unlawful discrimination between two groups, those on Universal Credit and those on legacy benefits.
“If the court finds in favour of that and makes a declaration, the Government has to go away and then decide how to rectify that. But the court can’t tell the DWP what to do so we have to wait and see.
“The hope would be that the Government comes up with some sort of package of support for those on legacy benefits.
“This would likely be back payments if the Universal Credit uplift to standard allowance is not maintained beyond September. But if it ends up being maintained for far longer, we are saying an equivalent of legacy benefits’ personal allowance should be uplifted too.
“Everyone will have experienced hardship in the pandemic and the difference in treatment is not justified.”
In April 2021, he outlined why this particular case is important to the claimants and brings light to an “unfairness” within the Government department.
Mr Ford explained: “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 two 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.”
Ken Butler, Disability Rights UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser, believes the Government has acted discriminatory in its actions.
“By restricting the £20 per week increase only to Universal Credit, the Government has discriminated against the millions of disabled people on other benefits,” he said.
“The judicial review action is great news and if successful will hopefully lead the way for the £20 uplift to be awarded and backdated to all legacy benefit claimants.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, a DWP spokesperson said: “It has always been the case that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe that they will be better off.”
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