The government’s flagship welfare policy is set to be challenged in the High Court by two women who allege they were left worse off after being “forced” to move onto Universal Credit due to mistakes by the government.
According to the charity the Child Action Poverty Group (CPAG) – which is bringing the judicial review on Wednesday and Thursday – the women have faced “irrational and unlawful discrimination”.
Despite being effectively barred from legacy benefits as a result of government blunders, the pair have been denied access to protections put in place to make sure legacy claimants are not left out-of-pocket by moving to Universal Credit, the group claims.
One of the claimants, whose disabilities mean she can only move around with the help of crutches, now receives £2,200-a-year less on Universal Credit than she did on her previous benefits.
However, she felt she had “no option” but to apply for benefits under the new system after the Department for Work and Pensions cut her employment support allowance (ESA) and personal independence payment (PIP) – a decision that was later successfully challenged.
Meanwhile, the mother of a disabled child said she found herself receiving £140-a-month less in benefits for 18 months after a DWP decision to cut her income support forced to her apply for Universal Credit.
The decision was later overturned and the claimant was paid some money in arrears, but she was not allowed to return to the old system.
Unlike legacy benefit claimants who will be move to Universal Credit under the government’s ‘managed migration’ scheme, the women were not eligible for transitional protection against cash losses.
“The government has consistently said no-one will be worse off if they move to Universal Credit without a change of circumstances. But our clients suffered significant income drops,” said Carla Clarke, CPAG’s solicitor.
“Neither had any change of circumstances other than the DWP making decision in relation to their previous benefits which it ultimately recognised were incorrect and overturned,” she continued.
“Yet DWP’s policy has left them stranded on Universal Credit, unable to return to their legacy benefits and yet without the protection against cash losses that people will have when they are moved from legacy benefits to Universal Credit.”
Clarke added: “The DWP made the wrong decisions but it is our clients who have had to pay the price for such poor decision making.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on an ongoing legal case.
“Universal Credit is a force for good and over 1.6 million are receiving the benefit successfully.”