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THE GOVERNMENT faced a fresh legal challenge over its “irrational” universal credit (UC) welfare reform today.
Supporters gathered outside the High Court in London as the court heard that the key Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policy has had a “disproportionately adverse effect” on disabled claimants.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) brought the action on behalf of one single mother with a severely disabled 12-year-old and a second disabled woman who lives alone, both of whom were left worse off after having to move to UC.
The women are challenging a policy preventing claimants from returning to their previous benefits after moving to UC following an “incorrect” decision. They are also challenging the “lack of protection against cash losses” for those affected.
Ahead of the hearing, CPAG solicitor Carla Clarke said that despite the government consistently claiming no-one would be worse off when moving to the new benefit system, her clients had suffered “significant” income drops.
“Neither chose to claim UC — they were forced to,” she said. “Neither had any change of circumstances other than DWP making decisions in relation to their previous benefits which it ultimately recognised were incorrect, and overturned.
“Yet DWP’s policy has left them stranded on UC, unable to return to their legacy benefits and without the protection against cash losses that people will have when they are moved from legacy benefits to UC under the managed migration process.”
The mother received £140 less a month for more than 18 months after switching to the new benefits system, while the other woman continues to receive about £180 a month less than she did previously.
Neither were entitled to cash top-ups designed to protect against loss of income because they were not part of the planned “mass managed migration” from existing benefits to UC.
A DWP spokeswoman said that although they were unable to comment on an ongoing legal case, UC is “a force for good” and that over 1.6 million people are receiving the benefit successfully.
The case, which follows a victory for four working single mothers claiming they were struggling financially because of the way their UC payments were calculated, will continue tomorrow.
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