Millions of legacy benefit claimants will miss out on a backdated payment from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) worth more than £700 after a court dismissed their appeal.
The DWP gave Universal Credit claimants a temporary £20 boost for each week during 18 months of the pandemic.
However, some claimants who were on legacy benefits and had not yet been switched over to Universal Credit were not handed the boost.
The case was taken to the High Court by claimants in February 2022, where it was rejected.
It was then taken to the Court of Appeal, which heard the final nine months of the 18-month policy classed as “unlawful discrimination” as most people on legacy benefits are sick or disabled.
However, the court upheld the decision made by the High Court in the original hearing.
In the verdict, Court of Appeal judges accepted the DWP’s claim that the £20 was not intended to alleviate hardship but help reduce the shock to newly unemployed people, preventing them from becoming dependent on long-term benefits.
The court found that: “The uplift was not targeted at alleviating hardship as a result of increased costs during the pandemic. It was targeted at alleviating a particular type of financial disruption, namely that experienced by those who had lost or were at risk of losing employment or significant income, and who as a result were making new claims for social security benefits for the first time having previously been financially self-sufficient.”
It added that legacy benefits claimants were “either not in the labour market at all by virtue of their disabilities, or only to a limited extent.
“That does not mean they were not a deserving group, and they were undoubtedly vulnerable. Nonetheless, a hard choice was made to prioritise those in the labour market but who it was anticipated would quickly become unemployed as a direct consequence of the pandemic and the lockdown measures that followed, and do so in large numbers.”
A DWP spokesman said: “We welcome the Court of Appeal’s findings in our favour.
“It has always been the case that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe they will be better off.”
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