Visually impaired York student wins legal battle over Universal Credit

A judge said the Department of Work and Pensions had breached its own regulations

A 22-year-old University of York master’s student has won a momentous legal battle regarding Universal Credit that could help an estimated 30,000 disabled students in similar situations, as reported by The Sun.

22-year-old Sidra Kauser of the University of York, who is visually impaired, was refused a work capability assessment, the only way to demonstrate limited capability for working. This rejection for an assessment is not uncommon, in fact it is the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) standard response to all students seeking the crucial assessment.

Under the current rules set out by the DWP, disabled students can claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and theoretically Universal Credit (UC). However, to claim UC, students must demonstrate a limited capability for work; an aforementioned work capability assessment is the only valid way to demonstrate this. However, as previously noted, the DWP refuses student applications for such an assessment, making UC unobtainable for all students regardless of their limited capability for work.

However, following her DWP refusal, Sidra Kauser applied for a judicial review on the matter which was subsequently ruled in her favour. The judge agreed she shouldn’t have been refused such an assessment, and that the DWP had breached its own UC regulations. Furthermore, the judge ordered the DWP to cover her legal fees which amounted to £12,000.

This appeal has been praised by the charity Disability Rights UK, who have estimated that “the secretary of state’s unlawful policy, which has been in operation since 2013, could have adversely affected 30,000 disabled students.”

In a comment made to The Sun, Sidra Kauser said: “I am glad I decided to take a stand and pursue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to refuse me a work capability assessment. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court ruling.”

In response to judicial review, the DWP has altered its blanket refusal of disabled students’ accessibility to the crucial assessment and shall reconsider any applicant who applied prior to August 5th 2020 who requests a reconsideration of their claim. However, the law firm who represented Sidra Kauser, Leigh Day, believes the important change in DWP regulations allowing disabled students access to the working capability assessment, could still be challenged in the courts.

A DWP spokesperson remarked that: “After considering the outcome of the litigation, the department will undertake a review of refused claims to UC made by disabled students prior to the implementation of the new regulations.”

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