Following the High Court case against the DWP, I have written to the Secretary of State, urging her department to change their policy. You can read my letter below.
Full text below:
Dear Secretary of State,
RE: Recent High Court judgement against the Department
I am writing to ask you to take urgent action following the High Court’s judgment on the case of Michael Connor last Friday. The High Court ruled that the Department’s refusal to pay Employment Support Allowance claimants the “assessment rate” whilst they are awaiting the outcome of a request for Mandatory Reconsideration is unlawful.
While we welcome the Government’s decision to introduce an internal review stage prior to a formal appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal, Labour has long been concerned about the length of time claimants have been forced to wait for the outcome of their Mandatory Reconsideration (MR). The success rate of appellants also raises questions about the quality of those decisions.
This latest ruling is further cause for concern that Mandatory Reconsideration is a barrier to justice for many seriously unwell and disabled people. The High Court has made it clear that leaving those appealing decisions with nothing to live on for weeks or even months on end “does not strike the required fair balance and for that reason is an unjustified impediment to the right of access to court as guaranteed by ECHR Article 6”.
It cannot be right that ESA claimants who have lodged a formal appeal are paid the assessment rate, while those only at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage are not. The Department’s suggestion that those affected can apply for Universal Credit takes no account of the fact that those in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium are no longer able to do so because of the “gateway”. I urge the Secretary of State to clarify why her Department is advising people to claim for support that they are in fact unable to receive.
Sadly, this is an issue the Department has long been aware of, and one that the Disability Benefits Consortium and its individual members, including the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, have long pushed for change on. It is regrettable that the Department has refused to engage with this injustice. I would advise the Minister to reflect on the judgment which makes clear that her Department couldn’t even bring an argument to court to justify the distinction.
The Government cannot ignore this issue any longer, I am writing to urge you not to appeal the High Court’s judgment, but instead take urgent action to bring forward the necessary amendment to Regulation 3ZA and bring this unfair, and now unlawful, discrepancy to an end.
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Shadow Minister for Disabled People