Crippen and the Sword of Damocles

sword of damocles


The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) have received another humiliating defeat in the courts after they tried to defend their actions involving a huge drop in income for severely disabled people moving on to Universal Credit.

There had already been two previous high court decisions to protect claimants in receipt of severe disability premium against a drop in income under the new benefit. However, the government decided to spend more time and resources challenging these decisions rather than accepting them and paying the thousands of disabled people affected.

The cases were brought by two disabled individuals, known as TP and AR, who had sought justice after their benefit income was reduced by £180 a month when they were required to claim universal credit after moving to a new house in a different local authority area.

Responding to Wednesday’s decision, AR said: “… It is still so shocking to us that we have had to fight so long and so hard just to get the government to see that their policy is unfair.”

The DWP had proposed new regulations to prevent other severely disabled people moving on to universal credit and to compensate those who already had done so. But it decided those who had moved on to the new system before 19 January 2019 would get just £80 a month in compensation.

In May 2019 the court ruled again that this was unlawful after TP and AR launched another legal challenge to this decision.

So, what next? With Boris Johnson threatening to change the law and effectively prohibiting the courts from getting involved in government policies in the future, appeals like this could be a thing of the past. But we shouldn’t be too surprised. The Tories have a history of changing the law to suit their policies. Several years ago, Iain Duncan Smith managed to retrospectively change DWP legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m pay-out to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.

George Orwell was a few years out with his 1984 predictions, but this government seems intent on them becoming a frightening reality.

Description of cartoon for those people using screen reading software

Two disabled people are shown to be extremely pleased that they’ve taken the DWP to court again and won. One of them, a black male, is holding a document that states ‘Appeal upheld plus compensation and back-payment of benefits.’ Alongside of them stands Boris Johnson and an official from the DWP. Boris is holding a document that states ‘Page 48 proposes changes to law’. He is saying: “They won’t know what’s hit them when I take power away from the courts!” Above one of the disabled people, a young white man in a wheelchair, hangs the sword of Damocles with a label attached. The label reads ‘Page 48 of the Conservative manifesto’.

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