The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) just admitted that a court case it lost means it may have to pay thousands of benefit claimants back-payments.
The DWP: wrong again
On 28 June, minister of state for employment Alok Sharma was forced to reveal the outcome of a legal challenge to the DWP. As the Mirror reported, the court ruled that the coalition government’s changes to regulations about Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) breached the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
As Sharma put it, a “small, specific group” of people were wrongly denied a right to a “fair hearing” against the DWP’s decision to sanction them. This was because it changed some regulations in 2013. This meant that claimants it sanctioned between 2011 and 2013 could not appeal under the old 2011 legislation.
The problem is that the DWP failed to allow for claimants’ appeals that were still ongoing when the regulations changed. Because their appeals were already in motion, it should have heard them under the old regulations. The court ruled that the DWP’s failure to allow them their appeals was a breach of Article Six of the ECHR – the right to a fair trial.
Now, the DWP has admitted just how many people are in the “small, specific group” Sharma referred to.
It has published [pdf] a draft “remedial order”, which is a fast-track amendment to the legislation in question. This allows it to change the sanction decisions of the people affected. And buried in the order, it states [pdf, p6] that the department:
“estimates that approximately 3789-4305 Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants may fall into the scope of the Declaration of Incompatibility [the court ruling]. Some of these individuals may now no longer be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
This is now the fourth time a court has forced the DWP to backtrack.
As The Canary has been reporting, the DWP lost one case just before Christmas, meaning it had to review the claims of thousands of people. It then lost another one on 14 June – this time about Universal Credit. Also in June, it lost a sex discrimination case at the EU Court of Justice.
What none of these court cases account for are people’s anxiety, financial hardship, or psychological damage. These are the possible impacts of DWP negligence on thousands of claimants – being forced to suffer because they were wrongly denied social security.