We lost. The judge ruled that in the end the consultation process for PIP was not unfair.
However that is not the whole story. You see, the judge found that it was the second consultation that made things right. The first consultation, he had some harsher words for. Words such as:
“Unfortunately mind-bogglingly opaque.” (Paragraph 105 part ii)
“At best ambivalent” (Paragraph 105 part vii)
“Convoluted, inherently unclear, ambiguous and confusing. No construction allows for full coherence.” (Paragraph 106)
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the way the government chose to do things, I think you’ll agree. The government’s legal team also agreed, and in fact they have accepted that they must share a portion of the costs of this judicial review in the face of evidence that it was indeed justified.
Not only that, but the government made it perfectly clear that they know exactly how much their policies will hurt people but want to do it anyway.
“… [T]his was recognised from the outset. In developing the PIP assessment we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives. However, we believe that these impacts can be justified as being a logical result of distributing limited resources in a different and more sustainable way…”.
Let’s see that again:
“we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives.”
So we have the government’s lawyers arguing that the DWP and the government ministers know full well that they are removing vital support from hundreds of thousands of people who have few other options and who will suffer as a result. And they are doing it to save money.
The judge agreed with the DWP that taking money from physically disabled people to allocate to other PIP claimants achieves “substantive equality between physically and non-physically disabled.” I argue that this has reduced the equality of physically disabled people compared to not-yet-disabled people, purely because of budget.
This is Lowest common denominator equality.
This is your government. This is what the society that we live in is prepared to accept.
The court’s findings and what’s next
The judge was persuaded by Dr Bolton’s evidence that the government could have changed their decision had they decided to listen to the overwhelming opposition to the 20m rule in the second consultation, and so it was not unfair. My legal team and I disagree. We still argue that the decision had long since been made and that the secretary of state had a closed mind by this point, and so the second consultation was not at a formative stage.
Although the judgment went against us I feel that the judge’s analysis of the first consultation is vindication for our bringing this case to court. Don’t forget that the second consultation only came about after this case was given permission to proceed and the DWP realised that they could not get away with such a shambles.
I hope that the admission by the government that they know exactly what they are doing will make people wake up to what is happening. Meanwhile, this is not the end. The legal team and I are considering our options to appeal this result.
Press Release from Public Law Solicitors
Read the full judgment