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Campaigners win court case


judge, quashed, 2017 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Regulations,The testing ‘had not looked at whether the basis for treating those with psychological distress differently was sound or not’.

High Court judge Mr Justice Mostyn has allowed the claim in the case of RF v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The High Court found that part of the rules governing Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are unlawfully discriminatory against people with mental health impairments.

So ‘RF’ won on all three grounds of her challenge RF v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The judge quashed the 2017 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Regulations because they discriminate against those with disabilities in breach of Human Rights Act 1998 obligations.

And because they were discriminatory, the judge also found that the Secretary of State did not have lawful power to make the Regulations (i.e. they were “ultra vires”), and that he should have consulted before making them, because they went against the very purpose of what PIP regime sought to achieve.

The judge heard that the Regulations were laid by negative resolution in February 2017, received relatively little parliamentary attention, and were rushed through the parliamentary process by the Secretary of State without prior reference to checks by relevant committees.

Contrary to the Secretary of State’s defence, the judge found that the decision to introduce the Regulations was ‘manifestly without reasonable foundation’ and commented that the wish to save money could not justify such an unreasonable measure.

And during the course of the trial, the Secretary of State accepted that the testing carried out for PIP had not looked at whether the basis for treating those with psychological distress differently was sound or not, and the testing actually done was limited.

The case was brought by a disabled person with mental health support needs to challenge the changes the government made to Personal Independence Payment Regulations in March 2017.

These changes were urgently introduced to reverse the impact of the Upper Tribunal Judgement in the case of MH v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (PIP): [2016] UKUT 531.

The changes prevent thousands of people who cannot plan and follow a journey due to psychological distress from qualifying for higher rates of this benefit or qualifying at all.

The Public Law Project, who represented RF argued in court that the changes are discriminatory and unlawful, because they go against original policy intent of PIP.

And while the court said that the regulations were discriminatory, and they have been quashed, it won’t take effect until the Court of Appeal decides whether the government can appeal this or not.

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London, said: “This is a hugely important case.

“It challenges the discriminatory way the government treats disabled people with mental health support needs.

“The outcome can make a difference to thousands upon thousands of disabled people.

“We have always believed that these changes are discriminatory and unfair and should have never been introduced.

“It is incomprehensible that the government pledges more support for people with mental health support needs and at the same time introduces, through the back door, regulation changes that prevent many thousands of disabled people with mental health support needs from qualifying for this essential benefit.

“The government’s actions to change PIP regulations and single out people who cannot travel because of psychological distress are a brutal attack on the rights of disabled people.

This case, she continued, “illustrates the lack of concern for disabled people and the government’s inability to listen to us and engage with us.

“It is extremely worrying that many of us feel the legal action is the only way for us to get heard.”

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said the judgement will make a huge difference for thousands of disabled people with mental health support needs.

“We have to remember that this challenge is taken in a context when the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found systematic and grave violations of Disabled people’s rights a year ago.

“And again in August it called the situation disabled people are in a ‘human catastrophe’.

“The UN specifically called on the government to repeal changes to PIP regulations because they breach our human rights under the Convention.”

That was in December.

And today the Guardian reported that the work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, said she would not challenge the ruling that found changes to personal independence payments (PIPs) could not be justified.

Campaigners called her announcement a major victory for thousands of disabled people who had faced “crude and unfair distinctions” between those with physical impairments and mental health conditions.

But Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, told the Guardian: “Serious questions remain including: how many people have been adversely affected by the government’s reckless decision to oppose the tribunal’s original judgment?

“How much public money has been spent on lawyers, trying to defend the indefensible?

“And how quickly will people with severe mental health conditions receive the support to which they are rightly entitled?

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