Terminally ill man to miss chemotherapy after switch to Universal Credit

Over recent months, we have covered the transition to Universal Credit in some detail. The roll out has continued unabated despite claimants facing incredible difficulty and hardship as their claims are transitioned across to the new system.

We have reported the comments from politicians and other public figures, but it is the stories and case studies relating to everyday people that really bring home the difficulties that the Universal Credit steamroller is creating.

Nothing, however, was able to prepare us for the situation facing a 52-year-old cancer sufferer, who says Universal Credit has been nothing short of a death sentence.

High court challenge

The man, known only as TP, launched a high court action against the government, saying that the move to Universal Credit left him unable to afford travel to and from hospital to receive chemotherapy. The court heard that the change from a series of means-tested benefits to one single Universal Credit payment had left TP out of pocket to the tune of £178 per month.

TP had been receiving the Severe Disability Premium and the Enhanced Disability Premium. However, the introduction of universal credit meant these policies were scrapped, despite the assurances of David Gaulke, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. You might remember he had proudly announced that: “no one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving at the point of migration to universal credit where circumstances remain the same.”

TP’s solicitor, Zoe Leventhal, explained to Mr Justice Lewis that he and another claimant, known as AR, “are no longer able to meet many of their basic needs.” She said that TP and AR are just two examples of people whose lives have been blighted by Universal Credit, and said that thousands of vulnerable people across the country are feeling the pinch in the same way.

Unlawful discrimination

Tessa Gregory is a partner at Manchester law firm Leigh Day, which represented both TP and AR. She told reporters that the legal action was taken on the basis that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had unlawfully discriminated against the two men, and against numerous other disabled people who live alone and with no carer.

She said that the DWP has axed payments that are specifically aimed at providing support for these vulnerable members of society and has done nothing to replace them or top up their other benefits, and added that in doing so, the government has acted unlawfully.

What happens next?

Mr Justice Lewis granted a high court review of the Universal Credit roll out and ordered that it be fast tracked. It is expected to take place in late May or early June.

While the judicial review is welcome, even a positive conclusion will come as something of a a pyrrhic victory to TP, who is suffering from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s disease, conditions that are likely to prove terminal.

Unsurprisingly, the DWP had very little to say on the topic. A spokesperson merely said: “We are unable to comment on the specifics of this case while the review continues. We are committed to supporting people into work while making sure the right care is in place for those that can’t.”

Need some advice?

The case of TP is an extreme example of the terrible consequences that any one of us can face from Universal Credit. If you are worried about the roll out, or you are concerned that your finances will be drastically affected, please get in touch with us here at Hylton Potts.

We are a friendly and knowledgeable team, and we will be happy to assess your circumstances and offer our advice and support. You can reach us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at law@hylton-potts.com.

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