The claimants in the legacy benefits case which was lost in the High Court are continuing the fight by applying for permission to appeal the decision.

As we reported earlier this month, four legacy benefits claimants brought a case against the DWP claiming that excluding them from the £20 uplift given to universal credit claimants was discriminatory.

That case was lost in the High Court.  But the claimants have now applied for leave to appeal the decision.

This is the first step in the process of trying to get the decision looked at by the Court of Appeal.

The initial request for an appeal is likely to be refused by the High Court, who are unlikely to want to admit the possibility that their decision was wrong.

However, a request can then be lodged with the Court of Appeal itself, where there is a much better likelihood of the appeal being accepted and even won.

The claimants legal team will be aiming to show that the High Court made an error of law.

They may focus on the fact that the High Court accepted the DWP’s claim that its aim in giving the uplift was to compensate people who had recently lost their job and who would struggle to adjust to life on benefits.  It could be argued that this claim was fatally undermined by the fact that the uplift was given to everyone on UC, regardless of whether they had been in work recently or not.

The result of giving the uplift to  everyone was that disabled claimants on UC got the £20 uplift, but disabled claimants on legacy benefits who were in exactly the same position did not and were thus discriminated against. 

The High Court held that this was merely indirect discrimination. But the claimants may well want to argue that the discrimination was entirely deliberate, direct and unlawful. 

This would rest on the contention that the real reason for the uplift was that the government did not want millions of newly workless people to realise just how impossible it is to live on benefits, so they increased them temporary.  They could not limit the increase only to claimants who had lost their income during the pandemic without causing uproar amongst all other UC claimants, who were equally blameless for the position they found themselves in.  So they raised it for all UC claimants.  

But legacy benefits claimants could be safely discriminated against because they were fewer in number and unlikely to win the support of the media. 

In fact, originally the DWP said that the reason legacy benefits claimants were left out was simply because it was not possible to alter the aged legacy benefit software to give them the uplift.  It was purely an insurmountable technical problem, the DWP claimed at the time. The idea that the uplift was to protect newly unemployed claimants was only invented when legal action began and has never successfully fitted the facts of the case.

There are real grounds for hope that this appeal will be successful. However, it is likely to take months and, even if the claimants do win, the DWP will almost certainly try to get the decision overturned again by the Supreme Court.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the case. 

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Louise · 5 months ago
    Hi at the time  if I am honest I was so wrapped up with covid  I didn't take a lot of notice that UC people had this  uplift of £20. I don't know about anyone else but where I have B12 injection  my doctors wouldn't let us in to have it they told me to go  to a health shop and buy the tablets  and I genuinely  couldn't my parents  bought them for me. By the time  we was back allowed in the doctors  for the injection  I owed and still owe them about 40 quid  its still money i gotta find  it is very unfair. How people were just left I do live alone classed as vulnerable  I had to pay for my shopping to be delivered  and let's be honest it really did take the best part of 2 years. I don't smoke drink I don't do drugs  I don't even have Internet at home no landline  and I did struggle  and I was on my own here  but as I said my parents helped me to buy my b12 tablets which I could not go without  I thinks  where does the government  think the money is from  to buy them  cus I really couldn't buy them
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    Ian c · 5 months ago
    Two points that could be raised by the legal team when they appeal against the decision made by Lord Jonathan Swift. Is he the same High Court Judge who was once the top Lawyer for the Government. If so then is there not a conflict of interest and how can he be expected to give an unbiased decision. Also the DWP have stated that the system dealing with Legacy payments could not be adjusted to make the payments to those on said benefit. Another blatant lie by the DWP, they manage to make the necessary adjustments when we get our below inflation rise in April.
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    Nanny Chris · 5 months ago
    Does this apply to pensioners on old style housing benefit?
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    Sue Masters · 5 months ago
    I would like to say that, had the DWP done it's job properly and on time, EVERYBODY would have been on UC anyway and, therefore, entitltle to the £20 uplift. There can be NO excuse for depriving those on legacy benefits.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    John Millar · 5 months ago
    Wow! Policy decided on the basis of what the software does. Classic "computer says no". Algorithms and programmers taking over proper decision making.
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    Clair · 5 months ago
    On a similar note the last 2 Xmas I received letter from PIP saying I was awarded £10 bonus for Xmas and to chase if not received by January payment....chasing up is a nightmare ...and I'm still owed £20
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    P. · 5 months ago
    Many on legacy benefits, such as ESA, were also told by Government that they are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and had to shield at home for months.  The increased cost of having to pay for deliveries of essentials, especially food, left many struggling financially. 
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    P Edwards · 5 months ago
    DWP and the Govt have reached new depths of despicable on this one. Their flawed decision to exclude a large portion of the people in receipt of vital state support merely goes to prove what little regard they have for these citizens. Its yet another way in which this pitiful government takes rash decisions and then twists the facts to justify their actions. 
    I'm not surprised that the Court upheld the decision and found the case not proven. The law fails to account for the ethics of "doing the right thing". It beggars belief that anyone, with even the basic understanding of the system, could omit these people from the uplift on the grounds of the inability of legacy system to pay the money. Lets not forget how obliging HMRC were to prop up business with grants and the like. 
    There were no cries from HMRC over IT not being able to cope - it was just done. In the aftermath we are now hearing of abuse of the system and fraudulent claims costing the taxpayer millions. Millions that are very unlikely to be recovered.
    In my opinion, on the basis that help was rolled out for everyone in need these needy people should not be discriminated against and their losses should be rightfully restored. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Gina · 5 months ago
    I told my MP about this case and he said that he had never heard of it. I think all MPs should be involved.
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    Kelly · 5 months ago
    Also within this situation, wasn’t there also a possible manipulation by the DWP to get legacy benefit claimants to transfer to UC if they wanted the uplift? I remember repeated statements from the DWP with regards to legacy claimants transferring if they thought they would be better off.
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    Angel · 5 months ago
    Indirect Discrimination is covered under the Equality Act.
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    Lx3 · 5 months ago
    All a load of ____.Dont think this will be resolved quick at all just drag it out for even longer wasting even more time and money should have been delt with same time as UC.?
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    Louel · 5 months ago
    I just wonder how long this will take?
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    Porridge · 5 months ago
    👏👏Thank you so much for explaining the potential grounds for an appeal in such a detailed yet easy to understand way: you are an extremely intelligent communicator. I now remember that the government’s justification for this benefits apartheid, at the time, was because their software prevented the increase to be offered to all benefits claimants, thank for reminding me about that. It shows a lack of honesty on the part of the government in that it changed its story radically when defending this law suit.

    I have also noticed that there is now a petition on the Parliament website to ask the government make good this unfairness. Many legacy benefit claimants will struggle to survive in the coming months. It’s already garnered 14,000 signatures. It would be great if everyone could sign it! 🙂

    “The government paid everyone on universal credit £20 per week from April 20 to October 21 but not to the disabled on Legacy Benefits. We all struggled the same and a lot of disabled people even more than others during the pandemic so I want it paid to them backdated.” https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/608486
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    susan gibson · 5 months ago
    They have admitted that there was discrimination so cant understand why legacy benefits cant get the extra money that UC got.
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    MrFibro · 5 months ago
    If we can appeal, and win, it's obvious the DWP wont take this win on their chin. They will go to supreme court, and drag this out as long as possible. If it comes out that the high court judge made an error of law, that means this was direct discrimination, not indirect, then surely he should reprimanded or something or other ie sacked, barred from the bar. I doubt it very much.

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