Court rules benefit claimants won’t get £720 in backdated payments

Martin Lewis provides advice on changes to legacy benefits

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Four legacy benefit claimants took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to the High Court in November 2021 to claim it was unjust to exclude legacy benefit claimants from the £20 uplift awarded to Universal Credit claimants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Court of Appeal has agreed the DWP did not act unlawfully by not paying nearly two million disabled people this extra money. Although legacy benefit claimants will be disappointed, there are 23 freebie benefits claimants could apply for this month.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court ruling the DWP did not act unlawfully by excluding nearly two million people on legacy benefits.

The Government won’t be required to backdate payments for people on legacy benefits. Anastasia Berry, Policy Manager and co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium said people will be disappointed.

She said: “The Court of Appeal ruled the Government was justified in discriminating between disabled people on legacy benefits (such as Employment and Support Allowance) and people on Universal Credit.

“This is despite an acknowledgement from the judge that the amount legacy benefit claimants received during the pandemic would’ve left them facing hardship and struggling to meet basic living expenses.”

Ms Berry claimed the verdict is an “affront to disabled people, including some with MS” and said this discrimation against disabled people is unacceptable.

She added: “And it’ll come as a crushing disappointment to the millions who were denied emergency financial support when they needed it the most. It also sends the dangerous message that discrimination against disabled people is acceptable.

“We stand in solidarity with the courageous claimants who brought this case all the way to the Court of Appeal. And with the tens of thousands who supported the campaign.

“It is a devastating blow, but these efforts were not in vain. It’s a stark reminder that the fight towards a fairer society for disabled people must continue.”

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In response, a DWP spokesperson said: “We welcome the Court of Appeal’s findings in our favour. It has always been the case that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe they will be better off.”

Universal Credit was introduced in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to bring six benefits under one scheme.

The DWP is currently in the process of moving more than two million people from legacy benefits to Universal Credit and hopes to complete this by the end of 2024.

Affected Britons will be sent a ‘Migration Notice’ over the next two years informing them they must make a claim for Universal Credit within three months from the date on the letter. 

People can ask to move sooner, however only half of them will be better off the DWP has confirmed.

Britons can use the benefits calculator on Gov.UK to see if they would actually be better off on Universal Credit. They will need details of:

  • Income – including any earnings or benefits
  • Rent and living costs
  • Savings and investments.

Benefit claimants may be able to claim 23 additional DWP benefits such as:

  • Reduced council tax bills
  • Capped water bills
  • Half price bus
  • Discounted rail fares
  • Free or discounted gym membership
  • Help with new job costs
  • Warm Home Discount Scheme of £140 off fuel bills
  • £25 in Cold Weather Payments
  • Free or cheap broadband from TalkTalk, Virgin Media and BT
  • Cheap BT phone calls
  • Free prescriptions for people with zero income or those on a low income
  • Free dental treatment
  • Eye tests and discounted glasses
  • Free school transport
  • Free school meals
  • Discounted childcare costs
  • £150 towards school uniforms – dependent on the local authority
  • £1,200 free cash as part of the Government’s Help to Save scheme
  • Food vouchers for kids as part of the Healthy Start scheme
  • Maternity grant up to £1,000
  • Disabled Facilities Grant (up to £30,000) to make changes to a home
  • Homeowners can apply for up to £10,000 to pay for a boiler
  • Homeowners can get help to pay for double glazing as part of the Green Homes Scheme.

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