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A LANDMARK legal challenge to the Tories’ “discriminatory” universal credit (UC) policy began at the High Court today.
The four-day judicial review is being brought on behalf of two “severely disabled” men who both live alone without carers. They had their benefits cut by £178 a month when they lost two premiums along with the switch from employment and support allowance (ESA) to UC.
Zoe Leventhal, for the claimants, said: “The loss related to the severe disability premium [SDP] and the enhanced disability premium [EDP], both of which are abolished under UC and not replaced in the new scheme.”
The court heard that TP, a terminally ill 52-year-old man, had his payments cut because he briefly moved from London to live with his parents in Dorset so they could look after him when he became very ill in October 2016.
The “significant cut in his monthly income at this most acutely sensitive time in his life,” when he is “receiving gruelling chemotherapy,” has had a “major impact” and left him in “undignified and unhygienic conditions.”
AR, a 36-year-old suffering from bipolar disorder, has been forced to use foodbanks and has become more isolated from his friends and family when he had his support cut after he was forced to move from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool by the bedroom tax.
Ms Leventhal said: “The effects on them and on many others of losing the amount has been significant.”
She said UC was unlawful under the Equality Act as “the impact on severely disabled people was not properly addressed in the [policy’s] equality assessment”.
The Department for Work and Pensions had “failed to have due regard to the needs of severely disabled persons” in regard to top-up payments for those affected, “despite such payments being promised repeatedly … during the legislative process,” she said.
Ms Leventhal also submitted that the policy was “discriminatory” against individuals who had moved from one local authority area to another.
She said that TP and AR were not receiving top-up payments “because they had a house move across local authority boundaries,” while those “with the same needs [and] in the same position” who had not moved received the payments.
Ms Leventhal also said that the 2013 Universal Credit Regulations were “discriminatory” against “severely disabled people living alone without a carer.”
She argued that the court could “interfere” with the government’s policy as it was “intended to focus additional support on the most severely disabled, yet a large cohort of that are getting much less.”
Speaking outside court, campaign group WinVisible’s Claire Glasman compared the government’s treatment of disabled people to that of the Windrush generation. “It is the same brutality,” she said.
The hearing continues.
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