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  • John Latham

Collision Course Into Poverty Caused By The Welfare System

While Boris Johnson is stuck in "Covid Partygate" mode, some of the most vulnerable are being left again as second class citizens.

While those on legacy benefits still await a decision on the £20 benefit uplift that Universal Credit (UC) claimants received during pandemic, on whether that is unlawful that they missed out on this payment, a case has been decided that may actually assist with the decision, however the £20 uplift case may not force the government to make payments to those who were not on UC during the pandemic, the latest court decision may be the same.

The landmark case which has been decided by the High Court in the past couple of days was the failure to compensate claimants who were made to move from legacy benefits to UC, and although the UK Government is supposed to protect their income, so the claimants were not worse off, those who received Severely Disabled Payments (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), had these payments reduced. The SDP is paid to those benefit claimants on the legacy benefits who live alone and have health/disability issues and some receive EDP, which was stopped from their benefit during changeover. There was a transitional payment of £120 a month, but that left them out of pocket by £60 a month.

This transition could be of no fault of their own, and/or a change of circumstances, which meant they had to change from legacy benefits. These claimants would have had to be reviewed into the appropriate health/disability group, where they would be awarded something equivalent but not to the same amount.

The court found that this action was constituted as unlawful discrimination on Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). This is because both payments had not been compensated for its loss.
According to the DWP, in the evidence given when defending the judicial review claim, the ruling will affect up to 50,000 people and will involve sums of up to £150 million over a six-year period to put right.

The other court case awaiting a decision any day now. could add to this bill to make sure that everyone on benefits are helped at the same level as their assessment and not one rule for legacy benefits and one rule for UC claimants.
Added to this is a damning report that Britain's welfare system is "unfit for purpose" and calls for rapid reforms to the social security system to protect low-income families from extreme hardship as its author cautioned that they "don't have any resilience left".

Covid Realities, is a two-year study by universities of York and Birmingham with the Child Poverty Action Group documenting the lives of 150 low-income families with children during the pandemic. It says that Covid exposed and exacerbated existing problems with the benefits system.

"Our social security system is currently ill-suited to protect people from poverty, and to provide individuals with some level of security as they navigate what are often temporary challenges in their lives - for example, the loss of a job, relationship breakdown, parenting and care work or ill health," said Ruth Patrick, senior lecturer in social policy at York University and leader of the research programme.

Many were struggling before the pandemic, which added to the difficulties that are now being compounded by the cost-of-living crisis. An additional 4 million households will be in fuel stress, (the new word of fuel poverty), which will triple in the expected situation in April, when the fuel cap and costs are reviewed. With inflation rising and other costs, there are calls to help those with low-incomes as the country attempts to recover from the last couple of years.

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