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Campaigner Steve Sumpter has today lost his court battle to have the 20 metre limit for personal independence payment mobility component overturned. The judge did not accept the argument that the consultation process was so flawed as to be unlawful.

However, it was only the fact that the DWP launched a second consultation after Sumpter, represented by Public Law solicitors, launched his challenge that saved the DWP from a major disaster.

The judge said that the first consultation had been “mind–bogglingly opaque” and that:

“ ... had it been necessary for me to have determined whether the consultation process would have been fair if it had stopped in December 2012..., the question would have been difficult and it should not be assumed that I would have found it to have been fair and lawful. Indeed, I have the gravest doubt as to whether I would have found it to be so.”

A report to ministers disclosed in court also revealed that they are very clearly aware that the introduction of PIP will harm the daily lives of many disabled people:

“ In developing the PIP assessment we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives...”

Sumpter and his legal team are now considering whether they can take the matter further. His solicitor, Karen Ashton said:

“The result is very disappointing . This is an incredibly important issue for many thousands of people with severe physical disabilities. The higher rate of mobility benefit can make an extraordinary difference to a disabled person’s life. Imagine not being able to get to the shop to do your own shopping or to visit friends because you have no way of getting there but to travel by taxi and you can’t afford the fare. This is what this reform may mean to the many thousands of the most severely physically disabled who will be affected by this change. We will be looking carefully at the possibility of an appeal. ”

More details on the Latent Existence site.

Comments  

+1 #14 Paul Richards 2014-07-28 22:32
Hi carruthers,
Yes, you've indeed raised some very valid points - it is a dreadful indightment on this country the way it treats it's genuinely disabled and sick people. Many people have highly varying conditions and mostly it seems this is not generally taken into account when assessments are made. Also, with mental health conditions too, as was recently raised by a contributor on here, what if for instance, someone is forced onto the work programme or WRAG and forgets to take some sort of anti-psychotic medication and attacks someone. With physical conditions also, if someone is in WRAG and is forced to do a work activity that could end up with them collapsing through pain and fatigue, or going into a diabetic coma. There is so much that could go so wrong and who would take responsibility for this.
But, at the end of the day the DWP lawyers have fought their corner and this particular decision has been upheld by the Judge.
I only hope that they take it to Appeal and win the case, as if not, it could mean that most disabled people will lose their much needed mobility that prevents them from being trapped in their homes. What a total shambles this 'Welfare Reform' has been, putting so many people, (including yourself & my wife) through so much continual worry and stress that is largely so needless.
+2 #13 carruthers 2014-07-27 20:51
@Paul

I am myself facing this problem - I am just about able to walk 20m with sticks. With a break. Some days. Very slowly. I can see me having to argue this point to tribunal level at least, when some zealot decides that I can manage much more.

I am furious about the government's regulations on this, but I know that they did it precisely so that people like me - and like your wife - will find themselves on lower levels of benefit or without any benefit at all. The DWP were always going to disregard any "consultation" that showed them how much hardship it would cause because they don't care. This is a money saving exercise and they will simply get round any obstacle by legislation or ministerial dictat.

The function of the judge was not to decide whether the legislation was right or humane. It was not even to decide if it discriminated against the disabled. It was simply to decide whether this consultation process met the legal requirements for such a process. He had, so to speak, to run a tape measure over the consultation process and see if it was of the right "size".

All he was allowed to do was to take the measure of the consultation process and see if it was legal.

Remember, the DWP's lawyers will have worked quite hard, following the failure of the first process, to make sure that this one would be legal, whilst keeping it in a form that would suit the DWP's ends.

The judge decided that they had succeeded. It may be that another judge would have decided differently, but we have no reason to suppose that this judge was stupid, dishonest or perverse. Indeed my own reading of such of the documents that I have seen suggests that he would have liked to find against the DWP, but decided that he could not. They had complied with the letter of the law about consultation, just barely.

So that's what he had to say.
+1 #12 Paul Richards 2014-07-26 22:23
Hi carruthers,
I totally respect what you say, but if you had a wife who could in no way manage to negotiate 50m (on sticks), as I have, then you would, with all due respect, understand exactly what I have got to say.

I reiterate (in my own personal opinion) this particular Judge should face an independent separate inquiry into the decision that he has made.
Whilst I am aware that this present Coalition Government may try to present it otherwise - in my own personal opinion, with the facts, as they have been presented, (especially with the 2012 'mind-bogglingl y opaque' reference) - this Judge has obviously got it all wrong.
I am still calling for a totally independent inquiry into his own personal Judicial decision. This Government should not be allowed to get away with this, however much that they think that they are actually right.
+1 #11 carruthers 2014-07-26 08:53
@Paul Richards
Quote:
Meanwhile, with the information as given, this Judge's decision is absolutely disgraceful and he should face an enquiry himself into this.
Disagree strongly. The judge had to decide whether something fell within the law. He decided that it did - just. He clearly signalled his belief that what was happening was not fair, or right, but it is not his job to decide what the law should be. He has to work with what it is.

Incidentally, judges also know that if they find this government has done something unlawful, then the government will simply rush through Parliament a bill saying (a) that it IS lawful now and (b) that it should be considered lawful in the past and (c) that the government isn't liable for any fines or punishments anyway.

@denise
You say, "They have worked it so it is in their favour and the judge fell for it." The judge was not asked if he believed government propaganda - but he said he didn't anyway. The judge said that, in terms of how the implementation of the law worked, the government had got away with it. They would not have done so with the first consultation document, but the second one just scraped through.

@everyone. If this consultation document had failed, then the government would have had to go back and ask everyone again. But that still would not have meant that they had to listen to the answers or change their minds.

@blackcat "There isn't anything like a dame" comes from "South Pacific" - stage and screen versions.
+1 #10 Blackcat 2014-07-25 19:52
I am very sorry to read about all this, and it must be very distressing.

I feel this is 'On Topic' one of the architects of the WCA and the PIP test has an amazing number of letters after her name.
'There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world'[ which movie did that come from please?]
She is a Rheumatologist by background,on Page 17 of a booklet she has written the forward to, a young lady is seen carrying 4 Cardboard boxes,this is a specimen breach of the Manual Handling Regulations,the lady cannot possibly see where she is going, and also she is probably not capable of carrying those boxes if they were full, somebody wants to point out to the dame the following points to consider when Manual Handling is involved.
T-ask
I-ndividual
L-oad
E-nvironment
I suspect that the young lady in question would also be on a high dose of opiate based pain killers. Can she safely fulfil her obligations under the H&S at work act. She has also got pre existing medical conditions so how would that affect the Employers Liability Insurance. I think they need to have a second look at PIP and WCA. As a Carpenter I can tell you there is a big difference between lifting a 2.5 Lt bottle of milk,and unloading a full sized breakfast bar top from a lorry. I think that picture could be seen as a 'Dangerous Occurrence' and could be covered by R.I.D.D.O.R regulations, perhaps I ought to alert the H&S control room at Swansea.
+1 #9 denise 2014-07-23 18:13
Yes they have to try and appeal. They have worked it so it is in their favour and the judge fell for it people will be prisoners in their own homes and that includes me as i pay petrol and taxi.s out of my money i wish there was a way that we could try and let them see that were not all scroungers and there are genuine people who rely on that money as life and death please god roll on 2015
+3 #8 Susan 2014-07-23 09:22
The CON/DEMSs have in the past demonised disabled people. They have as been outed and proved to have taken action that would damage the lives of the very people they were elected to represent and safeguard. This simply cant be about saving money, because so far the fiasco has cost more than if disabled support had been left alone. I am one of many that have paid my dues all 35 years of it. The 20 metre rule is simply a ruse to deny more people support. This is a support payment to allow disabled people to live a full life as part of the community. I certainly cant walk 3 steps without significant pain. The questions asked in the application are misleading. I wonder if this all can be taken to the European courts. I feel as if my Right to a Family and community life are being disregarded. This government finds money to waste and lose on conflicts abroad, failed systems etc. But ask them to support the very people they are supposed to protect and well! I guess they have proved their intentions with their actions.
The only time the unemployed and disabled have been truly treated worse is my Bloody Mary, when she passed a law if someone was unemployed or destitute and asked for a hand out they were hung. That's what this government thinks of benefits as hand outs to the lazy and unwilling. Certainly I don't ask for hand outs. I ask for what I am entitled to, paid for and as a citizen I deserve.
+2 #7 angela 2014-07-23 08:45
At the end of the day none of the partys want to pay any benefits to any body if they could get away this they would do it and leave us with nothing Jim you are right all partys are the same
+3 #6 Dansker 2014-07-22 21:24
The second consultation was farcical. Out of 1142 responses, 5 supported the change to a 20 metre qualifying distance. Nevertheless the DWP went ahead with the change. How anyone could consider this to be fair is a mystery to me; if a consultation is to mean anything at all then some notice ought to be taken of the respondents. It was clearly just a tactic for the DWP to evade a legal challenge.
+3 #5 Paul Richards 2014-07-22 21:21
Hi Jim & angela,
You are right in what you say - this is a non-elected Coalition, with an agreement behind closed doors (to the exclusion of the Lib-Dem roots) who saw a chance of opportunist POWER and took it - arms outstretched. If the Tories get in next time, I think that you may say goodbye to the NHS - at the very least your medical records may be sold to the highest bidder with who knows what consequences. The rich will be okay - the poor will suffer and
may have only some, (or not at all) of their prescriptions paid.
Labour would continue the Welfare Reforms, (perhaps with not so much severity). UKIP would probably be worse and the Tories, if re-elected would privatise everything. Nothing would be sacred and if you were unfortunate enough to be unemployed, sick or disabled (especially if you were single or on your own with no friends and family that could support you in any way) then I think that they would target you to perhaps try to put you into some form of privatised workhouse (just as in Victorian times) with the company being paid by the Government to employ you (but not pay you anything except your bed and board and £10 a week pocket money)
If you were lucky enough to be employed, full or part-time, you may just miss on this set of circumstances, but it would still be tight - you might just only be able to survive with all the bills etc.
It is disgraceful, but as I personally see it, this is the way that
Britain is heading.
Meanwhile, with the information as given, this Judge's decision is
absolutely disgraceful and he should face an enquiry himself into this. They should definitely go to Appeal over this.
+3 #4 Jim Allison 2014-07-22 20:40
Good article on this case on Welfare News Service HERE

I believe this is not the end of this questionable judgement.
+3 #3 Jim Allison 2014-07-22 18:31
Quote:
Surprised not me we all to wake up, this is the way it is and if this tory government win the next election hold on tight there wont be nothing safe
With respect, we don't have a Tory Government, we have a ConLib coalition which wasn't voted in by the electorate, but struck up by deals behind closed doors. Labour would have entered into a coalition if they had been given the opportunity.

These days there is little difference between Tory, Labour & the LibDems, so it will make little difference if any, who is voted in at the next General Election in May 2015, the welfare reform will go ahead.
+3 #2 angela 2014-07-22 17:15
Surprised not me we all to wake up, this is the way it is and if this tory government win the next election hold on tight there wont be nothing safe
+3 #1 Jim Allison 2014-07-22 16:47
Not good news. I'm amazed at the Judge's statement :

In the judgment handed down today, the court found the eligibility criteria in the 2012 consultation to have been “mind –bogglingly opaque”.

The judge went on to say:

“ … had it been necessary for me to have determined whether the consultation process would have been fair if it had stopped in December 2012…, the question would have been difficult and it should not be assumed that I would have found it to have been fair and lawful. Indeed, I have the gravest doubt as to whether I would have found it to be so.”

However, without conceding any legal flaw in the original consultation, the Government had carried out a further consultation in 2013, but decided, following that process, to retain the 20m threshold. Although the first consultation was on the whole of the PIP scheme, the 2013 consultation was limited to the particular criterion used to assess the eligibility of those with physical disabilities for the enhanced rate. It was argued on behalf of Mr Sumpter that this very limited process was not sufficient to remedy the unfairness experienced in the 2012 consultation.

By this stage, the rest of the scheme had already been set out in Regulations and it was that much more difficult for any change to be brought about.

In the final part of Mr Justice Hickinbottom’s decision, he concluded that, overall, taking into account the further consultation in 2013, the process had been lawful.

Mr Sumpter's solicitor is considering an appeal.and in my opinion rightly so. The Judge is admitting that the 2012 consultation was ‘mild boggling opaque’ but then goes on to say the 2013 consultation was lawful. His reasoning beggars belief.

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