DWP to be taken to court over disability benefit reforms

Campaigner Ellen Clifford has been granted permission to bring a judicial review of the public consultation over DWP reforms

Following an eight-week public consultation last autumn, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed plans to change the ‘scoring’ of the work capability assessment (WCA) from next year in order to make it more difficult for disabled people to qualify for higher social security payments.  

But last week, the High Court granted Ellen Clifford permission to bring a judicial review of the public consultation. Her legal action is backed by organisations including Z2K, Black Triangle, Disability Rights UK and a variety of disabled people’s organisations across the UK. 

While the government presented its plans as a way to help disabled people into work, Clifford’s lawyers argue its main motivation is actually to cut spending on benefits. They also claim that not enough information was provided in the consultation to allow respondents to understand and comment on the real impact of the proposals. 

The work capability assessment works by scoring applicants based on their disabilities and their ability to perform certain activities. Points are awarded for different ‘descriptors’ – physical functions such as mobility and manual dexterity, and mental functions such as learning tasks and coping with social engagement.  

Applicants who score the highest are placed in the LCWRA (limited capability for work related activity) group, meaning they receive universal credit disability payments and have no work-related conditions.

Those scoring below the highest levels, but still enough to qualify for support, are placed in the LCW (limited capability for work) group – they have to prepare for a return to the workplace, but do not have to actually look for jobs. Those who score low receive no disability payments under universal credit and are expected to look for work. 

The DWP proposals are that mobility problems will no longer be enough by themselves to qualify for the LCWRA group; that difficulties getting from the applicant’s home to a specified place will in future score lower in relation to the LCW group; and that the substantial risk regulations, under which people whose mental health would be harmed by undertaking work-related activity, are instead placed in the LCWRA group, would only apply in exceptional cases. 

Around 230,000 people with serious mobility problems preventing them from working could miss out on the extra health element of universal credit by 2029, according to figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) requested by charity Z2K.

A further 141,000 people with mental health conditions could be impacted by 2029. Z2K warns this could put them and others around them at “substantial risk of harm” under the DWP’s conditionality regime.

The judicial review is being pursued on four grounds: 

  • the consultation period was too short 
  • the consultation did not properly explain the reforms – for example, it did not make clear that some people could lose up to £390 a month 
  • the proposals are not rationally connected to the government’s stated objective of helping more disabled people into work, with very few of those affected forecast to get jobs 
  • people could not respond properly to the consultation as information about the impact of the proposals was not provided 

Read the full article at www.bigissue.com/news/social-justice/dwp-disability-benefits-judicial-review-ellen-clifford/

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