Mentally-ill woman waits for ruling after High Court benefits fight
A judge heard a claim that new “independence” payments discriminate against people suffering psychological distress.
A woman with mental health difficulties is waiting to hear whether she has won a High Court fight after questioning the fairness of a state benefit designed to help disabled people maintain independence.
The woman says regulations governing personal independence payments – a benefit designed to cover some of the extra costs run up by people who need help with everyday tasks or with getting around – are discriminatory.
She claims that people who suffer from “overwhelming psychological distress” are treated less favourably than people with other conditions when their ability to make journeys is assessed.
Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke is disputing her claims.
A judge finished analysing evidence at a hearing in the High Court in London on Wednesday.
Mr Justice Mostyn said he would publish a ruling in the near future.
He says the woman, referred to in court as RF, cannot be named in media reports.
The woman is being advised by legal charity the Public Law Project.
A spokesman for the project said the regulations at the centre of the case came into force in March and personal independence payments had replaced disability living allowance.
“RF is an individual who has significant mental health impairments and is affected by the change in regulations,” said the spokesman.
“RF is bringing the case on public interest grounds as it will affect lots of benefits claimants.”
He added: “(She) argues that the regulations are discriminatory because people who suffer from overwhelming psychological distress are treated less favourably when assessed on their mobility than people with other conditions.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman disagreed.
“Personal independence payment looks specifically at how someone’s life is affected by their disability or health conditions, including mental health conditions, unlike the old system which did not sufficiently recognise mental health problems,” she said.
“In fact, there are now more people with a mental health condition receiving the higher rates of personal independence than there were under disability living allowance.”
Members of a number of campaign groups staged a demonstration in support of the woman prior to the start of the hearing on Tuesday.
“The Government is discriminating against people with serious mental health conditions who are unable to plan or undertake a journey because of overwhelming psychological distress,” said a spokeswoman for one group, Women with Visible and Invisible Disabilities.
“You can’t score enough points to get full mobility benefit unless you also have physical mobility problems.”