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Staff in MS Society t-shirts with placards, outside the Royal Courts of Justice

High Court rules against legacy benefits claimants

The High Court has decided the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) did not act unlawfully by denying nearly two million disabled people emergency funding to help them survive the pandemic. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, people on Universal Credit were given an emergency increase of £20 a week. But disabled people on legacy benefits, including many with MS, were left behind.

Legacy benefits include Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support and will eventually be replaced by Universal Credit.

Case brought to the High Court

In November 2021, four legacy benefit claimants brought a case to the High Court. The case stated the Government had acted unlawfully by denying nearly two million disabled people on legacy benefits the same emergency increase of £20 per week that was given to those on Universal Credit. 

The decision resulted in an increasing number of disabled people struggling to afford food, rent and medication.

On the first day of the court hearing – we gathered outside the High Court alongside other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). We stood in solidarity with everyone who had been denied the extra financial support, and demanded justice.

Three months after the hearing, the judge has finally made a ruling in favour of the DWP.

Disabled people forced deeper into poverty

Anastasia Berry, our Policy Manager and the Policy co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium said: “After months of stalling, we’re devastated by the High Court’s ruling today, which fails to hold the government to account for its shameful treatment of disabled people, including those with MS.

"While the government has found a legal technicality to temporarily duck responsibility, the basic fact remains that it stood idly by while many disabled people were forced deeper into poverty during the pandemic.

“This ruling will come as a colossal blow to the 2.2 million people on legacy benefits, such as Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance, who were cruelly denied the emergency funding which was offered to others without any justification.”

What happens next?

The case may be over, but we haven’t given up.

As part of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) we'll continue to fight for a fairer benefits system which works for disabled people.

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