Universal credit and lone parents under 25

13 December 2019

Rogers and others v SSWP CO/3678/2019; C1/2019/3111

On 17 September 2019, CPAG filed a judicial review claim challenging the lower standard allowance in universal credit for lone parents who are under 25. Permission to apply for judicial review was refused at an oral permission hearing on 11/12/19. CPAG sought permission to appeal this refusal in the Court of Appeal but such permission was refused on 30 April 2021.

CPAG is acting on behalf of a single mother who is under 25 and her young son. The mother was previously claiming income support and child tax credit, but her benefits were inexplicably stopped in early 2019 and when she sought to get them reinstated she was informed by DWP that she would need to claim UC. She did this and immediately saw a drop in her benefit payments due to the fact that there is a uniform lower rate of standard allowance for under 25s in UC compared to the situation in legacy benefits where lone parents who are 18 or over receive the same rate as all adults who are 25 or older. The mother was struggling to make ends meet on this lower amount.

In the grounds of challenge, CPAG argue that the SSWP failed to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty under s149 Equality Act 2010 given that when the Welfare Reform Act was passed in Parliament the accompanying Equality Impact Assessment and Explanatory Notes were based on the the standard allowances being the same as the personal allowances in legacy benefits. It was only subsequently in the impact assessment of December 2012 that it was decided that there should be a uniform rate for under 25s rather than differentiating between those with family responsibilities and those without, yet no consideration was given of the equality impacts of this change in policy.

In addition, it is argued that the treatment of lone parents under 25 is discriminatory and that the only rationale put forward for the change in policy and resulting difference in treatment is administrative simplicity for which there is no evidence in support. Furthermore, no regard was had to the impact of the change in policy on the children of lone parents under 25 contrary to the requirements under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that this failure is also relevant to whether the difference in treatment is justified.

If you are assisting a lone parent under 25, who is affected by the lower rate, we would recommend requesting a mandatory reconsideration and then appealing the decision.  While permission was not granted for a judicial review challenge to be brought, the Article 14 ECHR discrimination arguments could still be considered by a tribunal on a statutory appeal.  A template for an MR request can be found here.