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Universal credit claimants unlawfully discriminated against win five-figure damages

SAM TOBIN reports from the High Court

WORK and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey must pay damages to two severely disabled men who lost £170 a month when they were moved onto universal credit (UC).

The pair will be paid a total of just over £11,000 to compensate their financial losses and the resultant “mental suffering, distress, anxiety, humiliation and disruption to life,” the High Court heard today.

Last month, the High Court ruled that the two men were unlawfully discriminated against as they were moved onto UC simply because they moved between local authority areas.

TP, a terminally ill 52-year-old, had his payments cut under UC while undergoing “gruelling chemotherapy” because he briefly moved from London to live with his parents in Dorset.

AR, a 36-year-old suffering from bipolar disorder, was forced to use foodbanks when his support was cut after the bedroom tax forced him to move from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed to pay TP and AR damages but sought to keep the sum confidential.

Samantha Broadfoot QC said it was “not contrary to the principle of open justice for the figures to remain confidential.”

But Mr Justice Lewis said: “You are the government and we should know what you are doing and what public money you are spending.”

He expressed concern that “the government is trying to hide something. They lost and they do not want to admit they lost.”

After a short break, the parties reached an agreement on a non-confidential basis.

The DWP agreed to pay TP £6,517.05 — £3,277 for financial losses, £3,240.05 for “significant stress and anxiety.”

AR will be paid £4,788 — £2,108 for financial losses and £2,680 for the “significant distress” caused.

The pair will also receive £173.50 and £176 a month respectively to make up for the shortfall until the UC regulations are amended.

TP and AR’s lawyer, Tessa Gregory from Leigh Day, said: “We hope the Secretary of State will now without delay compensate others in the same position and reconsider her decision to pursue an appeal.”

She said the current draft UC regulations “only compensate those in our clients’ position to a flat rate of £80 a month” which “compounds the unlawful treatment” they suffered.

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