The DWP has spent £215,846.89 on legal costs defending and appealing cases in relation to claimants formerly in receipt of Severe Disability Premium (SDP) that had transferred to Universal Credit.
These figures, confirmed in the response to a written Commons question, include Government Legal Department litigation fees, counsel’s fees and other disbursements, as well as VAT where payable.
Toby Perkins (Lab – Chesterfield) asked what the cost to the public purse was of legal challenges to the DWP’s policy to remove the severe disability premium and enhanced disability premium payments from claimants transferring to Universal Credit.
DWP minister Justin Tomlinson confirmed the £215,846.89 sum – as at 13th February this year.
Tomlinson’s response set that sum against the £55bn a year spent to support disabled claimants.
“By not replicating the SDP and other premiums, we have been able to target additional support to a wider group of claimants and create a more streamlined system.
“It is important that the Government can design policy and challenge court decisions, where appropriate, that seek to change that policy,” he said.
Perkins followed-up to question how many claimants who transferred from severe disability premium and enhanced disability premium payments to universal credit were waiting for their payments to be reinstated and backdated.
Tomlinson said that – as of 17th January this year – 15,397 claims have been paid an SDP transitional payment, with the median value of the lump sum payments being £2,280.
To date, said Tomlinson, over £51.5m has been disbursed to support former SDP claimants, including the recurring payments that have now started.
“Positive progress has been made and caseload growth has now slowed, however, in the event a new case is discovered payments will be in place quickly.
“It is not possible to estimate when we will have paid everyone who is entitled as some people become entitled to these payments retrospectively, and therefore the caseload is not a fixed number,” he said.
Tomlinson issued he same response to Perkins asking what the timescale was for all Universal Credit claimants who previously received either the severe disability premium or enhanced disability premium to have their payments reinstated and receive backdated payments.
Disabled people, Tomlinson said, are “some of the biggest beneficiaries” of Universal Credit, with around 1 million disabled households having on average around £100 a month more on Universal Credit than they would have had on the legacy benefits.
“When designing Universal Credit, a choice was made not to replicate every aspect of the disability provision in the previous system, including the Enhanced Disability Premium.
“The Severe Disability Premium (SDP) gateway has been in place for over a year to prevent those claimants entitled to the SDP as part of their legacy benefit from claiming Universal Credit.
“We have successfully identified eligible former SDP claimants who have already moved to Universal Credit due to a change in circumstances, providing them with monthly payments and a lump sum in arrears, where appropriate,” he said.