TWO million Brits on benefits could be in line for a payout worth £1,560 if the Government loses a legal challenge next month after excluding them from Covid support.
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Many of those left out of pocket are disabled, claiming benefits such as personal independence payments (PIP) or employment support allowance (ESA).
In April, two Brits were given the go-ahead by the High Court to take legal action against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), arguing that the treatment was unfair.
Now, it’s been confirmed that the hearing will take place from September 28-29, even though the case was originally earmarked to happen in July.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you’re falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you’re part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You’ll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You’ll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you’re really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
However, the judgement might not be announced on the day – it could be announced a couple of weeks after the case is heard in court.
Even if the court rules that the treatment was unfair and unlawful, there’s no guarantee of a payout though.
The DWP will have to make amends and can decide how it will do this.
One option is in the form of a back payment for those affected, worth up to £1,560.
This is equal to the 12-month uplift from March 2020 worth £1,040 a year, plus the £560 paid out through the six-month extension announced in the 2021 Budget.
Alternatively, they may opt to just extend the uplift to those on the old benefits system going forward and not make up for the cash they missed out on.
The DWP may also decide to take action without the case reaching court.
Disabled welfare claimants have been protected from moving onto the Universal Credit since 2019 over fears they will see their welfare payments drop.
But as of January 27 this year, the “gateway” was removed, meaning anyone on the tax credit system will be rolled onto Universal Credit if they have a change in circumstances, such as moving house.
William Ford, solicitor for the at claimants at Osbornes Law, said: “Whilst the uplift for those on Universal Credit is very much welcomed, there is no evidence to demonstrate that those in receipt of Universal Credit were more in need of the uplift than those on legacy benefits.
“This two- tiered approach to the UK social security system should end and we would encourage the government to re-think its position. If not, we hope to succeed in court at the end of September.”
Helen Barnard, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank, said: “Disabled people and carers already face a greater risk of poverty, so there can be no justification for offering them less support than people claiming Universal Credit simply because they are in a different part of the system.”
Save the Children UK’s head of child poverty, Becca Lyon, added: “All families deserve the security of being able to provide food for their children and pay for rent, bills and essential items.
“The UK government must make sure that the social security system works for all those who need it, and extend the uplift to families on legacy benefits.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “It has always been the case that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe that they will be better off.”
It comes as the government is set to axe the £20 uplift a week that Universal Credit claimants at the end of September.
However, charities including Citizens Advice, Turn2Us and Stepchange have slammed these plans, warning that stopping the extra cash would push thousands of families further into debt.
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It’s the latest in a spate of court cases against the Government over Universal Credit.
In January, a single mum on Universal Credit has won a landmark court case to get childcare costs paid for upfront.
Meanwhile, in June, three judges ruled the Universal Credit assessment dates as “irrational and unfair”after four mums took the Government to court.