FORCED LABOUR WAS, AT LEAST BRIEFLY, ILLEGAL
The DWP suffered a crushing defeat this morning after a university graduate and a mechanic took them to court over being forced to do unpaid labour in return for their benefits. Having lost in the High Court, the duo, supported by the public law project, won their case at the Court of Appeal .
Most of the government's back to work schemes were declared illegal by the court and any sanctions against claimants who failed to participate in forced labour will now have to be repaid by the DWP.
However, by this afternoon employment minister Mark Hoban announced that the government is already exploring a number of options to avoid repaying sanctioned benefits to claimants and that new regulations are being enacted – possibly today - to try to ensure that forced labour can carry on as before .
The court ruling is a huge embarrassment to the DWP and it may find it difficult, in practice, to refuse to repay sanctioned benefits, although it can certainly drag the process out for a very long time even if its proposed appeal to the Supreme Court fails.
PIP ENHANCED MOBILITY ONLY FOR PEOPLE WITH INDOOR MOBILITY PROBLEMS
The DWP appear to be planning to only pay the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP on physical grounds to claimants whose mobility is so restricted that they have difficulties moving between rooms indoors. Those who can manage indoors but have difficulty outdoors may only be awarded the lower rate of the mobility component.
Atos and Capita, the companies carrying out PIP assessments, have been told that:
“20 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence in the home such as the ability to move between rooms.
“50 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence such as the ability to get from a car park to the supermarket.”
To score the required 12 points to get enhanced rate mobility for physical health problems alone, a claimant must prove that they can’t stand and move more than 20 metres even using aids and/or with assistance. This means that in the majority of cases the private sector health professionals are likely to be looking for evidence that the claimant has problems with indoor mobility, rather than outdoor, if they are to be awarded the enhanced rate.
PIP MOBILITY CHANGES MAY BE ILLEGAL – YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED
Meanwhile another group of claimants has secured legal support to challenge the last-minute change to the PIP regulations which deny enhanced rate mobility to anyone who can stand and move more than 20 metres.
They will be arguing that the failure to consult about the reduction of the limit from 50 metres to 20 metres means that the change is unlawful and should thus be quashed. If successful it would be a bigger blow to the government than today’s forced labour ruling. The result would be that the DWP would be obliged to consult all over again on the changes before they can be introduced. In the end they can still ignore the results of a new consultation, but they will face a very determined battle and will have no opportunity to claim that disability organisations supported the changes.
At the very least it would set the introduction of PIP back months. At best it could even result in a fairer set of rules for the mobility component.