High Court rules that 2017 changes to PIP regulations are discriminatory

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

The Public Law Project’s client, 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. 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.

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. 

RF’s claim was supported by The National Autistic Society, Inclusion London, Revolving Doors and Disability Rights UK. All of those organisations gave statements to the court that the Regulations were unfair and that the intention to treat those with psychological distress differently had not been made clear in the early PIP consultation stages. The claim was also supported by two interveners: Mind and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC made written submissions to the Court on the ongoing and persistent breaches by the UK Government of its obligations under UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities arising from its austerity measures. The Judge found that this inconsistency with the UN Convention supported his finding that the measure had no objective justification.

The Government intends to appeal the decision. The Regulations will not be quashed until the Court of Appeal decides whether or not the appeal should proceed. RF is anticipating a decision on this in early 2018.

* Matt is a reader of and contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice who is not a member of any political party

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  • Frances Alexander 24th Dec '17 - 10:06am

    Does this mean that the Personal Independence Payments will be discontinued to the current recipients if the regulations are quashed?

  • @Frances Alexander

    The ruling is only in relation to claimants who are “denied” the mobility component of personal independence payment. They have said that the Governments changes to legislation to exclude those suffering from “psychological distress” is discriminatory.

    The judgement said that the secretary of state did not have the legal authority to make the changes without consulting parliament.

    The Government have said that they would appeal the decision.

    I don’t think this will have an effect on existing claimants, what the DWP tends to do in these circumstances is, for current claims who are waiting to be assessed who might be affected by these rules, they will see there claims shoved to the back of the queue and take longer to be assessed any appeals mandatory reconsideration’s that are lodged for current recipients will also be shoved to the bottom of the pile to await what happens with the Governments appeal.

    It was Tim Farron who submitted the original prayer motion last time to try and block these legislative changes. I suspect that given the high court ruling, early in the New Year we will see Vince Cable put forward a new motion to try and overturn this legislation.

  • Jayne mansfield 24th Dec '17 - 11:53am

    @ Matt,
    Thank goodness for an independent judiciary.

    Keep fighting Matt.

    Wishing you a joyous and peaceful Christmas.

  • An informative article Matt on a highly important issue. I hope, as you say, ” given the high court ruling, early in the New Year we will see Vince Cable put forward a new motion to try and overturn this legislation.”

  • Tony Dawson 24th Dec '17 - 3:01pm

    So, the government say they are appealing.

    Funny that few of Theresa’s subjects think so these days. Not quite Trump ratings but not far off.

    They have no shame. Essentially, this judge’s ruling is that they deliberately changed the ruling to try to penalise those who the PIP legislation said should be helped. 🙁

  • LORENZO CHERIN 24th Dec '17 - 4:14pm


    Very good you are proactive here and at the grist to the mill, on these areas where you and your story are an example of the awful treatment and illiberal undemocratic policy.

    Scrooge changes at Christmas. I would suggest three colleagues, Matt included visit the pm tonight !

    Merry Christmas friends…

  • @Tony Dawson

    “They have no shame. Essentially, this judge’s ruling is that they deliberately changed the ruling to try to penalise those who the PIP legislation said should be helped”

    The full judgement is pretty damning on the Government, they lost on every front.

    Theresa May began her Government with a promise to the right the wrongs of social injustices. She has failed spectacularly.

    I look forward to her being held to account in the New Year and what she has to say on the matter.

    Many thanks to you and many thanks for pointing me in the direction of your article, which I enjoyed immensely as I am sure you can tell 🙂

    Wishing you all a very merry Christmas

  • So do those already assessed under PIP scheme get reassessed or are they left in limbo until the legal appeal process is heard? If they are just left in limbo it is even more shameful!

  • @frankie

    What normally happen in these circumstances is.

    Existing awards stands.
    If you want to have the DWP look at your claim again, you are warned that if your award is looked at, it can go wither way, you could either get a reduced award, lose award entirely or you might get an increased award.
    It is normally done with so much fear that the claimant will decide it is not worth the risk to their existing award and thus decide to wait until their claim comes up for natural renewal / reassessment, which could be 1 , 2 or even 5 years.

    It sucks, what the DWP should be forced to do is to automatically look again at cases who were affected by this legislation, without the claimant having to ask for a review with the threat..

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 26th Dec '17 - 10:50am

    Matt, thank you for writing this article, and informing us about this decision of the High Court, which seems to have received surprisingly little coverage in the media. As Jayne Mansfield says, cases like this show how important it is to have an independent judiciary.
    As you say, the DWP should be required to look again at all cases affected by this legislation.

  • Your blog causes me to wonder what our benefits service is for. Is it to provide a means for all people to receive a baseline quality of life? Then, each according to their needs is the criterium by which it is perceived fair.

  • I just wanted to announce a huge piece of news for disabled people who were affected by this legislation.

    The Government has been forced into a humiliating U-Turn and is no longer going to appeal the high court ruling.

    Supposedly the DWP is going to re-examine all the claimants who were effected by this and back pay their awards.

    This is a triumphant day for disabled people and campaigners and a massive defeat and humiliation for the Government.

    Thank you to all LDV members who supported this issue and also want to take the opportunity to do a shout out to Caron, who I know does a lot to champion the cause of disabled people 🙂

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