Disabled University of York student takes Government to court over access to Universal Credit

Up to  30,000 disabled students could be affected. Picture: AdobeStockUp to  30,000 disabled students could be affected. Picture: AdobeStock
Up to 30,000 disabled students could be affected. Picture: AdobeStock
A disabled University of York student has started a High Court legal challenge against the Government for the right to claim Universal Credit.

Sidra Kauser, aged 22, from Halifax, suffers severe sight impairment and mental health difficulties.

She receives Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is supposed to pay from extra costs of living associated with her health conditions, but is forced to use it for everyday living costs as she had just £122 a month after using her student loan to pay for tuition fees and rent.

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Like other students, she is ineligible to claim Universal Credit because of her incapability to work due to her health conditions whilst studying for her masters degree in psychology - which she is arguing is unlawful.

However, had she made a claim and been accepted before starting her degree, she may have been able to continue receiving the benefit.

Miss Kauser, who is being supported in her legal fight by the charity Disability Rights UK, said: “I want to be able to carry on with my studies, safe in the knowledge that I will be able to meet any extra costs I incur because of my disabilities.

“It seems totally illogical that if I had had a work capability assessment before I went to university and had been assessed as eligible for universal credit, then I wouldn’t be in this position and would be able to carry on with my studies without the stress of worrying about whether I will be able to cope financially.”

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Disability Rights UK’s welfare rights advice and policy adviser, Ken Butler said he believed the policy could affect up to 30,000 disabled students.

Mr Butler said: “Disabled people face additional costs than those without a disability, on average it amounts to £583 a month and unlike their non-disabled peers, disabled students are less likely to be able to find and undertake work to offset their costs. It is only appropriate and fair that disabled students should be able to claim universal credit.”

Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd, who has taken on the case, said: “Our client believes it is grossly unfair that the government’s policy only sets out to support those already receiving universal credit to access higher education and does not seek to support those who are applying forcourses or who are already in education. It is not acceptable for the government to expect disabled students to live on extremely limited financial means during their course of study which has huge ramifications on their health and education outcomes.

“Our client argues that the government’s policy that she cannot have a work capability assessment is irrational and therefore unlawful.”

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A DWP spokesman said: “We are unable to comment on an ongoing legal case.

“Most full-time students in higher education do not qualify for Universal Credit because one of the conditions of entitlement is that a claimant must not be in education.

“Students, including disabled students and those with health conditions, access fees and living costs support for their higher education courses through various loans and grants funded through the student support system.

“It is important that Universal Credit does not duplicate this support, which is designed for their needs unlike the welfare system.”

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