DWP to review 30,000 Universal Credit refusals after PIP claimant wins battle

The DWP today promised a benefit statement of as many as 30,000 cases where people were denied the right to claim Universal Credit.

It follows from a Supreme Court ruling that the current rules are considered illegal.

A DWP spokesperson said: “After considering the outcome of the lawsuit, the department will conduct a review of denied claims to Universal Credit submitted by disabled students prior to the implementation of the new regulations. ”

A legal battle had been started by student Sidra Hauser, who was denied the right to file a claim for Universal Credit.

Sidra, from Halifax, receives Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but that in combination with a student loan is not enough to live on. After paying her rent, she is paid £ 122 a month for food, clothing, travel and other expenses.

The 22-year-old, who is severely visually impaired and is currently studying for a master’s degree at York University, had applied for Universal Credit at the start of her master’s degree last year, following deterioration in her health.

But the DWP declined to conduct a Work Capacity Assessment (WCA) on the grounds that she was a full-time student. Her application for Universal Credit was therefore rejected.

Sidra then applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the policy.

She argued that if she were to receive a work ability assessment demonstrating her limited ability to work under Regulation 14 (b) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013, she would be entitled to a universal credit of between £ 540 and £ 680 a month. .

Students in full-time education cannot undergo the assessment of work ability under the DWP policy. This means that if a person is left with limited capacity for work during his studies because he is afflicted with an illness or is suffering from a worsening of a pre-existing condition, he will not have the means to claim benefits.

However, if Sidra had been assessed as having limited ability to work and applied for Universal Credit BEFORE entering a full-time degree, she would have been able to continue to claim the benefits while continuing her studies.

The DWP said the aim of the policy is to encourage existing claimants with health problems to receive education that can help them find employment in the future.

Sidra argued that failure to perform a work competence assessment is irrational and illegal.

She said: “I want to be able to continue my studies knowing that I can bear all the extra costs that I incur because of my disability.

“It seems completely illogical that if I had had a work competence assessment before going to college and assessed as eligible for Universal Credit, I would not hold this position and continue my studies without the stress of worrying or I’ll be fine financially. “

Disability Rights UK backed Sidra’s claim and is lobbying that disabled students have been denied access to Universal Credit since 2017.

Ken Butler, the charity’s welfare counselor and policy adviser, said he believed the policy could affect up to 30,000 disabled students.

Mr Butler said: “ People with disabilities face additional costs than those without disabilities, averaging £ 583 per month and unlike their non-disabled peers, disabled students are less likely to find and undertake work to offset their costs. .

“It is only appropriate and fair that disabled students should be entitled to universal credit.”

Leigh Day attorney Lucy Cadd said, “Our client believes it is extremely unfair that the government’s policy is only to support those who already receive universal credit to access higher education and not support those who register for courses or those already in training.

“It is unacceptable that the government expects disabled students to live on extremely limited financial resources during their studies, which has a huge impact on their health and educational outcomes.

“Our client argues that the government’s policy that it cannot have an assessment of fitness for work is irrational and therefore illegal.”

Now, after Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey told the court in July 2020 that she would not defend Sidra’s claim, a Supreme Court judge has ruled that the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully and overturned the decision to deny Sidra’s claim . for Universal Credit.

Sidra will now get a WCA and if she is deemed incapacitated for work, she has the right to file a claim for Universal Credit.

She said, “I am pleased that I have decided to take my position and continue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to deny me a WCA. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court’s ruling.”