New DWP rules to 'protect' disabled from 'sudden payment reductions'

Disability benefits for tenants moving home have been protected by a new court ruling. Disabled tenants will be better protected from sudden benefit payment reductions when they move home under the recent changes, it is hoped.

The increased protection for households comes after a Upper Tribunal judge found that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had not acted lawfully in its treatment of a disabled tenant when she moved from supported to sheltered accommodation.

The tenant challenged the DWP after she suddenly lost £285 a month in benefit payments. The tenant, who was represented by charity Shelter, was moving from supported housing paid by housing benefit to sheltered accommodation covered by Universal Credit (UC).

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It meant the whole of Julie’s housing costs were treated as an increase to her UC, even though her income had not increased. Shelter argued that the tenant should have had “transitional protection”, which protects tenants from a sudden “cliff-edge” income drop. Tribunal judge Thomas Church concurred with the charity and found in its favour.

He said: “What cannot occur is the unfair stripping away of all transitional protection in one fell swoop when a claimant’s circumstances change, such that they need to move between specified accommodation which is funded via housing benefit and non-specified accommodation which attracts the housing costs element of Universal Credit.”

Shelter said in a statement in the wake of the victory: “The government must urgently change the law to reflect the tribunal’s finding. And the DWP must make sure that managed migration won’t result in more people living with disabilities and health problems facing financial hardship.”

Earlier this year, a First-tier Tribunal allowed the appeal and told the DWP to recalculate Julie’s award. In response, a DWP spokesperson said: “We are currently considering the necessary requirements to comply with this judgment.”