Thousands of disabled people on Universal Credit could be paid damages after two severely disabled men who were treated unlawfully while receiving the benefit received compensation.
Following the disclosure of the payments on Tuesday (July 31), Unite called for the botched rollout of Universal Credit – which has left huge numbers of people in debt and relying on food banks – to be halted completely.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) were made to pay the two men more than £11,000 after the High Court found they had their benefits wrongfully docked after moving onto Universal Credit.
The men were told by a judge in July that they were the victims of discrimination and that the DWP had “unlawfully” acted against them.
Both men lost more than £170 a month after switching to Universal Credit when they changed respective addresses, causing “seriously detrimental impacts on their health and well-being”.
One of the men, who has terminal cancer, could not afford to travel for chemotherapy after his range of means tested benefits were replaced by the all-in-one payment.
The men received compensation from the DWP of £6,517 and £4,788 respectively for their “pain and distress” and the continuing shortfall in their benefit payments will also be made up.
Speaking after the case, one of the men, who worked in the City of London before becoming ill, said, “Constant money worries have made me more isolated and more depressed.
“The stem-cell transplant and chemotherapy was very gruelling and the anxiety around my finances and Universal Credit has made it all a lot worse.”
Despite paying the men compensation, the government is still appealing the High Court’s ruling.
Tessa Gregory from Leigh Day solicitors, which represented the two men, said, “We hope that the Secretary of State will now without delay compensate others in the same position and reconsider her decision to pursue an appeal against the original finding of discrimination.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner called for the introduction of Universal Credit to be stopped.
“Tory benefit cuts and work capability assessments weighted against claimants have already made life impossible for disabled people and Universal Credit has simply added to their suffering,” said Turner.
“On top of the compensation owed to the two severely disabled men in this case, the DWP is now potentially on the hook for pay outs to thousands of other disabled people whose lives have been made a misery because of Universal Credit.”
He added, “Rather than save money, all the government has done with their introduction of Universal Credit is create further costs by unlawfully targeting the most vulnerable and ignoring the serious problems inherent in the new system.
“The government is being told from all sides that the Universal Credit is cruel, not fit for purpose and not cost effective. The rollout needs to be halted immediately.”