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Benefit claimants could be due £1,500 in back pay

written by Bella Palmer
department-of-work-and-pensions

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the government introduced a £20 week uplift as additional support for people on Universal Credit

Over two million benefit claimants could be due £1,500 in back payments from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) if a legal challenge is successful.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the government introduced a £20 week uplift as additional support for people on Universal Credit (UC).

However, people on "legacy" benefits such as Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support and Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) did not automatically qualify for the benefit boost.

The High Court granted two people on ESA the right to legally challenge the decision earlier this year, as reported by The Daily Record.

People on "legacy" benefits argue they should have been in line for the same uplift as they have been hit with the same rising household costs.

The DWP will face a court battle next week as lawyers representing the two claimants say all evidence has been submitted and that one person on JSA and another on Income Support have also joined the legal challenge.

William Ford, solicitor for the claimants has confirmed that a final hearing will be held on September 28 and 29.

Mr Ford told BirminghamLive: The case centres on a claim of unlawful discrimination between two groups, those on Universal Credit and those on legacy benefits.

If the court finds in favour of that and makes a declaration, the Government has to go away and then decide how to rectify that. But the court can't tell the DWP what to do so we have to wait and see, he said.

The hope would be that the Government comes up with some sort of package of support for those on legacy benefits, he said.

He added: This would likely be back payments if the UC uplift to standard allowance is not maintained beyond September. But if it ends up being maintained for far longer, we are saying an equivalent of legacy benefits' personal allowance should be uplifted too. Everyone will have experienced hardship in the pandemic and the difference in treatment is not justified.

Figures estimate that Universal Credit claimants would have received £1,560 in additional support payments while the uplift was available from March 2020 - September 2021.

In June 2020, MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee called on the UK Government to raise the level of other benefits in the same way as Universal Credit.

Stephen Timms MP, chair of the committee, said at the time: The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in a social security system which at times is too inflexible and slow to adapt to support people in times of crisis.

He said: The focus has mostly been on the unprecedented numbers of new claims for Universal Credit. But in the background, people on legacy benefits - including disabled people, carers and people with young families - have slipped down the list of priorities.

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