A fresh legal battle has been launched after Universal Credit rules led to thousands of disabled claimants losing up to £180 a month.
A group of 275 claimants represented by law firm Leigh Day is taking on the Department for Work and Pensions over reductions to payments.
The group has sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey.
Leigh Day stated claimants could have missed out on £170 a month – and in many cases £180 – because they were moved on to Universal Credit before January 2019, BirminghamLive reports.
That marked the introduction of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) Gateway system, and people who receive that premium were not transferred to Universal Credit because they could end up worse off.
However, those who were switched to UC before that cut-off date say they have lost out and are being treated unfairly.
In their letter to the Therese Coffey, the claimants argue they have suffered because of the unlawful implementation of the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) 2014, the SDP Gateway Regulations, January 2019, and the Managed Migrations Regulations 2019.
They say they have suffered discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Leigh Day believes that up to 13,000 disabled people in the UK have been affected and could potentially make a claim to retrieve lost benefit payments.
The claimants are asking Ms Coffey for compensation equal to the amount of money they have lost following their transfer to Universal Credit, for their previous level of benefits to be restored and maintained until a lawful migration scheme is established, and for compensation for the stress they have been caused.
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
A DWP spokesman said that under current rules, those in receipt of a the Severe Disability Premium will stay on their existing benefits until January 2021 when the SDP gateway will be removed and they will be switched over to Universal Credit.
It said former SDP recipients who have already moved to Universal Credit, or who move after January 2021, will be considered for transitional payments to top up their benefits. These would consist of a lump sum and ongoing monthly top-up payments.
The DWP has been paying some compensation for the loss of income when moving to UC but, so far, not the full amount of £180.
Initially it offered £80 a month after two claimants were successful in a court case but then increased it to £120 after a further legal challenge. Claimants now intend to to go back to court so they can get the full £180.
DWP data going up to August 2019 says 6,315 claims have been paid to SDP recipients, with each getting an average lump sum of £2,160. A total of £16,358,370 has been paid out, it indicates.
Solicitor Ryan Bradshaw said: “All 275 of our claimants were previously in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium under the legacy benefits system. They migrated on to universal credit before the introduction of the SDP Gateway.
“Our clients argue that they suffered unjustified discrimination and a net loss of over £170 a month, in many cases £180 a month.”