EXCLUSIVE: Law firm Leigh Day is preparing to launch a group claim for up to 100 people who lost out on ‘Severe Disability Premiums’ – and still haven’t been paid months later
Disabled Universal Credit claimants plan to fight the government in court after being left for months without cash they’re owed.
Lawyers Leigh Day are preparing a group compensation claim involving up to 100 victims that they believe could reach the High Court.
Those affected are among 13,000 benefit claimants who lost ‘Severe Disability Premiums’ when they moved to Universal Credit before January 2019.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed to give them back payments worth £80 a month – but four months later has still not coughed up the cash.
Now Leigh Day has told the Mirror it is preparing to mount a formal case, demanding both the money people are owed and compensation “for the distress, anxiety, humiliation and disruption to life”.
The case is in its earliest stages and may not reach a judgment for a year – by which time DWP back payments could already be in place.
But Leigh Day solicitor Ryan Bradshaw said: “There is a big hope it will focus minds [in the government] on this massive issue.”
Mr Bradshaw said around 100 potential claimants have contacted the law firm, and lawyers are planning to sign up a handful of “lead claimants” to head the case in the near future.
If it proceeds successfully it could then reach the High Court.
One of those in contact with the law firm, Philip Michell from Bampton, Devon, claimed in a formal complaint that switching to Universal Credit last August left him £344 a month worse off.
DWP statements show that before he switched benefits, around a third of the 57-year-old’s Employment and Support Allowance was “extra money for being severely disabled”.
The former travel agent, who said he has not worked since 1994 due to multiple medical conditions, accused the DWP of “robbing” payments and said the situation left him contemplating suicide.
Mr Michell, who said he has suffered acute anxiety, chronic fatigue, immune deficiency and Hepatitis, said: “We need a voice.
“We need someone to speak on our behalf. We have no way to access our human rights.”
Another victim speaking to the firm, who asked to remain anonymous, said she sank into rent arrears by £2,500 after moving to UC left her £186 a month worse off.
The 35-year-old mum-of-four from London said: “The most vulnerable people like myself are losing out left, right and centre.”
Leigh Day previously won a separate High Court victory over the entire policy of back payments for the 13,000 people caught up in the row.
Judges ruled the £80-a-month back payments discriminated against the disabled people because they are expected to be lower than transition payments for other claimants.
Tory ministers are now reviewing whether to appeal that judgment or raise back payments for those involved.
However, as it stands any changes will have to be tied up with a wider law on Universal Credit – which MPs are yet to approve in Parliament.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Legislation working since January stops claimants moving from Severe Disability Premium to Universal Credit and their payments will be protected when they move at a later date.
“Those who’ve moved already are considered for an additional monthly payment and a backdated lump-sum.”
Asked about Mr Michell’s case, the spokesperson said: “Jobcentre staff continue to work hard to assist Mr Michell.”