High Court ruling is a huge stride for fairer treatment by DWP

Failed in their duty: the DWP failed to provide a blind man with accessible information

A Croydon man has won his High Court case against the Department for Work and Pensions which asserted that they failed to provide blind people with accessible communications about their benefits – the Government department sending him more than 20 hard-copy letters that were either delayed or simply unreadable.

The case was brought by self-employed blind man Dr Yusuf Ali Osman, who earlier this year won another, unconnected High Court case, this against Croydon Council, when he claimed successfully that he had been wrongly charged Council Tax last year.

On this occasion, Dr Osman had brought a Judicial Review of the DWP’s systems for communicating with disabled people after it failed to provide him with important information about his benefits in ways he could access.

The RNIB charity described the court judgement as “a huge step forward”.

Samantha Fothergill, the RNIB’s senior legal adviser, said, “The DWP need to do better for people living with sight loss and we hope this judgement will incentivise them to ensure their communications are accessible.”

Dr Osman had alleged Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, was in breach of his legal obligation to communicate with blind and visually impaired people in an accessible manner. In the period from 2020 to March 2023, he received 21 letters which were either inaccessible or significantly delayed by the need to prepare an accessible version, compared with just two timely, accessible, letters.

In breach of legal obligation: Tory minister Mel Stride

The High Court ruled in Dr Osman’s favour after his lawyers at Leigh Day argued the DWP’s systems were putting him at a substantial disadvantage compared to sighted benefits recipients.

The RNIB says his experience is common and has serious consequences for blind and partially sighted people, including their benefits being stopped and penalties being imposed.

Dr Osman can only access correspondence in either electronic format (such as text sent in the body of an email, or as an accessible PDF or Word attachment) or in Braille. Despite repeated requests, the DWP continued to send him information about his disability and employment benefits in printed letters or as scanned inaccessible PDFs attached to emails.

Documents in these formats cannot be used with a Screenreader, which many blind and visually impaired people rely on to read out the text of a document.

Dr Osman received some letters from the DWP in Braille, but these were often many weeks late, meaning he risked missing important deadlines.

Dr Osman receives annual correspondence from the DWP about his claims for Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments. He also receives regular correspondence about the rules that govern how much he is permitted to work in his role as a freelance access consultant.

The court declared that the DWP had discriminated against registered blind and sight-impaired people receiving PIP and ESA who had requested certain alternative formats in a period up to September 2022 by failing to make reasonable adjustments to its policy of sending hard copy letters, in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

The court’s order recorded that:

  • The DWP apologises to Dr Osman for the way in which his correspondence was sent.
  • Both parties note that the DWP has subsequently altered some of the processes that were in place up to 13 September 2022 (the date the Court gave Dr Osman’s case permission to proceed to a final hearing), and that further changes are being implemented, developed, or considered.
  • The DWP will update Dr Osman as to the progress of these changes in six and 12 months.
  • Dr Osman will be invited to act as a tester for the changes to the IT system for PIP, and to the changes proposed for the DWP-wide technical solution.

The court ordered the DWP pay Dr Osman £7,000 compensation in settlement of the claim and to pay his (considerable) legal costs.

“The High Court has agreed how poorly the DWP treats people like me, who are registered blind or partially sighted,” Dr Osman said.

Court success: Dr Yusuf Osman

“The DWP has continued to send me important correspondence about my benefits that I am unable to read, or that has been unreasonably delayed, even after I issued this claim.

“The DWP clearly does not have a system that allows them to consistently identify, record and share disabled people’s communication preferences which means we keep receiving inaccessible or unreasonably delayed correspondence. The DWP needs to take more radical steps to improve the way it communicates with blind and visually impaired people.

“I can only hope that they improve their practices in future or I may be forced to take further action.”

And according to Dr Osman’s lawyer at Leigh Day solicitors, such further action may not be too far away. “We remain unconvinced that the steps the DWP has taken since this claim was started are sufficient to meet its legal obligations and have reserved the right to bring this matter back to court if matters do not improve,” said solicitor Kate Egerton.

  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com
  • As featured on Google News Showcase
  • Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Charity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to High Court ruling is a huge stride for fairer treatment by DWP

  1. The DWP have been treating people with disabilities like shit for years. Dr Osman and Leigh Day have given them a long overdue slap in the face.

  2. Teresa Fernandez says:

    I have applied to review my PIP. Four times and they said that I am going to receive the middle rate this happened four times they say the same thing old the time my condition off health detoriates I am always getting the same points 10 how can they mala decisions without a face to face appointments they can not diagnose individuals over the phone I am a 72 years old with lots medical conditions wwhat I get is state pension pension credit and middle rata of PIp how can I leave with this money I go days whithout food I can’t afford to buy a small piece off chicken I have worked all my life I have stopped working due to heath issues

Leave a Reply