The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have made a embarrassing U-turn that they haven’t publicized. All new claims for Universal Credit will not be accepted if the claimant is in receipt of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Daily Living Component. Instead the claimants will be placed on legacy benefits; Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) depending on if the claimant is fit to work.
The dramatic change is linked to a court case that the DWP and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey lost in June. The High Court ruled that two severely disabled men were unlawful discriminated against when their benefits were significantly slashed after being forced onto Universal Credit from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The men who cannot be named for legal reasons had been in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP). All new Universal Credit claims after June 2017 were no longer entitled to the SDP as the government has chosen to scrap it. Despite being told by the DWP that nothing would change the men saw a drop in their benefits of £178 per month.
Handing down his ruling Mr Justice Lewis said;
“There appears to have been no consideration of the desirability or justification for requiring the men to assume the entirety of the difference between income-related benefits under the former system and universal credit when their housing circumstances change and it is an appropriate moment to transfer them to universal credit.
“That is all the more striking given the government’s own statements over a number of years that such persons may need assistance and that there was a need to define with precision the circumstances in which they would not receive such assistance.
“The implementing arrangements do at present give rise to unlawful discrimination (contrary to the European convention on human rights).”
A month after the ruling the DWP was forced to disclose a compensation payment that it had made to the two men. Along with payments for harm caused to their mental health it was shown that the DWP had agreed to top up their Universal Credit payments with the disability premiums that they had lost.
Esther McVey then announced that no claimant currently on Employment and Support Allowance would be moved onto Universal Credit until transitional protection was in place. A big climb down which she attempted to spin as showing her party had compassion.
What has changed?
I was contacted by a third sector worker who wanted to let me know about this change as it wasn’t widely known. They help claimants make applications and had been aware that this change would begin in September. This week, claimants who receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and its Daily Living component are told to contact Jobcentre Plus when trying to make an online application for Universal Credit.
I know this is a change as I was able to make an application in similar circumstances last year. This led to me losing my two disability premiums.
I teamed up with writer and disability campaigner Kitty Jones to look into this more. After we looked into the details, contacted the DWP Press Office and tried our own ‘test applications’ we came to the conclusion that in effect the Tory benefit overhaul just hit reverse.
All claimants on legacy benefits are due to start being transferred to Universal Credit from June 2019 in what’s called “managed migration”. The fact that they are going to start new claims for old benefits throws this into doubt.
I contacted the DWP for comment asking why this change had occurred and their first response was to deny it. Their spokesperson said;
“In areas where UC (Universal Credit) hasn’t fully rolled out yet, those making a new claim to benefits would need to claim one of the legacy benefits.”
UC rollout is due for completion in December 2018 after which point new benefit claims would be made to UC rather than ESA or ESA.”
After I replied stating that I had information showing this to be incorrect the spokesperson replied that they;
“need to check with officials and come back to you tomorrow.”
So the first time they didn’t even bother checking before releasing a statement, make of that what you will but it is pretty sloppy work even for a Sunday.
All I can say is that at this current moment in time Universal Credit’s online application portal will not accept a claim if you are on Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
More Humiliation for May
The Conservative Party Conference has already been an embarrassment for the Prime Minister after the major security breach of its Conference App released details of MPs and delegates in Birmingham.
This revelation can only be seen as a humiliation for Theresa May. Her MPs have been defending Universal Credit from the constant barrage of criticism and now this climb down has come out, a planned one at that.
While it is positive that claimants won’t be forced onto Universal Credit this does not address the assessment and appeals processes that are unfit for purpose on any type of benefit.
Maybe they’ll try to spin this as a “compassionate move,” which seems to be Esther McVey’s go to defence if they get caught out. Whatever they try to spin it as it just shows that the Tories are in chaos when it comes to welfare and this is evidence that Universal Credit must be scrapped.
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