Success stories | CPAG

Success stories

1: Challenging UC conditionality

Background

X had scored 12 points at her Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on the basis of her mental health.

The descriptors she scored points under included “Getting About - Is unable to get to a specified place with which the claimant is unfamiliar without being accompanied by another person (6 points)” and the assessor had included in their report “She always needs someone with her when travelling to new places and meeting new people due to severe anxiety and panic attack [sic]… The evidence indicates that she is not able to get to a specified place without support from another person I have therefore awarded 6 points for this descriptor".

X was asked to apply for a number of jobs that would have required her to travel for up to 90 minutes per day on public transport. She had incurred several sanctions for failure to attend interviews. These sanctions were overturned on appeal, but the DWP declined to adjust her claimant commitment to take account of the findings from her WCA.

How could Judicial Review help?

X was continuing to be asked to apply for jobs that she could not get to due to her mental health problems, and was continuing to incur sanctions which she was unable to challenge without assistance. She was therefore at risk of financial hardship for herself and her children, and experiencing a significant amount of stress. Judicial Review was a way of challenging her claimant commitment.

Why did we use Judicial Review?

  • UC conditionality in the claimant commitment is not open to appeal.
  • The DWP is a public body.
  • The challenge was brought on behalf an individual client who was a person with “sufficient interest” as it was her own benefit claim in question.
  • The DWP had failed to follow the Regulations and were therefore acting unlawfully.
  • JR was therefore the appropriate remedy to challenge the DWP.

Did we use a lawyer?

No! A CPAG adviser (not the CPAG solicitor) sent a pre-action protocol letter to the DWP on X’S behalf quoting Regulation 97(6) of the UC 2013 Regulations and arguing this should be applied to X’s work search requirements. Regulation 97(6) provides that: "Where a claimant has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial adverse effect on the claimant's ability to carry out work of a particular nature, or in particular locations, a work search or work availability requirement must not relate to work of such a nature or in such locations".

How did it work?

The Pre-action protocol letter was sent within 3 months of the DWP’s refusal to adjust her conditionality.

The DWP replied and agreed to review X’s Claimant Commitment.

CPAG wrote back with more specific requests, to which the DWP replied:

“I am pleased to confirm that X’s claimant commitment was reviewed at a meeting with her work coach on 3 December and X work-related requirements have now been adjusted to take into account her mental health.”

It did not get to court, and no costs were incurred.

Get involved!

Template letters for challenging inappropriate clamant commitments will be available in our templates section soon.

2: Habitual residence test

Background

X was the non-EEA husband of Y, who was an EEA worker.

X left Y due to domestic violence and was living in a domestic violence shelter with their 2 children. She was eligible for UC as the family member of an EEA national.

X applied for Universal Credit and failed the Habitual Residence Test as the DWP had failed to establish whether Y was a ‘worker’.

This decision was appealable and a Mandatory Reconsideration was applied for.

The Mandatory Reconsideration decision upheld the original decision.

How could Judicial Review help?

X needed the DWP to follow their own guidance and ‘seek information to help them make their decision’ as it was not reasonable to ask her to contact Y to obtain supporting evidence.

Why did we use Judicial Review?

  • Refusal of Universal Credit is an appealable decision BUT the matter was extremely urgent as X had no income for her and her children.
  • The DWP is a public body.
  • The challenge was brought on behalf an individual client who was a person with “sufficient interest” as it was her own benefit claim in question.
  • The DWP had failed to follow the Regulations and were therefore acting unlawfully.
  • Judicial Review was therefore the appropriate remedy to challenge the DWP to produce a speedy result.

Did we use a lawyer?

No! A CPAG adviser (not the CPAG solicitor) sent a pre-action protocol letter to the DWP on X’S behalf quoting Kerr (AP) v Department for Social Development (Northern Ireland) [2004] UKHL 23 which requires the SSWP, where information is not available to the claimant, to take steps to obtain that evidence and therefore avoid the need to decide cases based on the allocation of the burden of proof.

How did it work?

The Pre-action protocol letter was sent within 3 months of the Mandatory Reconsideration decision.

The DWP replied to say “judicial review is not an appropriate remedy”.

CPAG replied with a bit more detail and further arguments.

The DWP replied to say they still did not think judicial review was an appropriate remedy, BUT revised the original decision and paid X 3 months of Universal Credit for her and her children.

The JR request had the effect of making the DWP lawyers look at and improve the decision making process.

There were a couple of letters to and fro, but it was all within the pre-action stage. It did not get to court, and no costs were incurred.

Get involved!

A version of the letters used in this case will be made available as templates in our templates section soon.

3: Universal credit claim and housing costs

Background

X was a vulnerable adult with learnings difficulties and mental health problems. He moved from supported housing into independent accommodation and tried to make a claim for Universal Credit.

There were 2 issues. X was unable to complete his claim due to his learnings difficulties and mental health problems so there was a significant delay in it coming into payment.

When it did come into payment, it did not include his housing costs, despite all the information having been provided.

X was at risk of losing his new independent accommodation.

How could Judicial Review help?

There was no decision to appeal during the period his claim was delayed and UC backdating is limited to one month.

The Universal Credit statements were eventually retrospectively eventually updated to include his housing costs, but no money was being received by X or his landlord. Non-payment is not an appealable decision (as a decision has been made to pay!).

Why did we use Judicial Review?

  • X needed his Universal Credit including his housing costs paid from the start of his tenancy, a remedy not available through Mandatory Reconsideration.
  • The DWP is a public body.
  • The challenge was brought on behalf an individual client who was a person with “sufficient interest” as it was his own benefit claim in question.
  • The DWP was unlawfully withholding the Universal Credit X had been awarded, and had failed to their own guidance by referring X for digital support. This failure to make adjustments constituted unjustified discrimination on basis of his disability.
  • Judicial Review was therefore the appropriate remedy to challenge the DWP to produce a speedy result.

Did they use a lawyer?

No! An adviser working in a housing association sent a pre-action protocol letter to the DWP on X’S behalf arguing disability discrimination and failure to follow their own processes by failing to offer digital support when they were aware of X’s learning difficulties.

How did it work?

The Pre-action protocol letter was sent within 3 months of the Mandatory Reconsideration decision.

The DWP replied to say “UC will be assessed from the date that the claimant first started the claim process.” “The Housing Costs element will be included from that date.”

Universal Credit was paid from the start of X’s tenancy including his housings costs, preventing homelessness and ensuring he could maintain himself in his new independent accommodation.

Get involved!

Letters about housing costs will be made available as templates in our templates section soon.