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High Court says DWP in breach of equality laws

The High Court has declared the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in breach of equality laws for failing to provide accessible information about benefits for blind and partially sighted people.

Dr Yusuf Ali Osman, a self-employed access consultant with sight loss from Croydon, brought a judicial review against the DWP after it failed to communicate in an accessible way about his disability and employment benefits. Despite requesting an alternative accessible format, the DWP continued to send him information about his benefits in hard copy letters and scanned PDF email attachments; both formats are inaccessible for people with sight loss who use a screen reader.

RNIB supported Dr Osman’s case and provided a witness statement to the court which detailed all our previous dealings with the DWP on the issue of inaccessible information over many years.

Between 2020 and March 2023, Dr Osman received 21 letters that were inaccessible, or delayed by the need to create an accessible version, compared to only two timely, accessible letters. His experience is typical of blind and partially sighted benefit-recipients and can have severe consequences, including penalties and benefits being stopped altogether.

The High Court ruled that the DWP had discriminated against blind and partially sighted people receiving Personal Independence Payments and Employment and Support Allowance who had requested alternative formats by failing to provide this as a reasonable adjustment, in line with the Equality Act 2010.

Samantha Fothergill, RNIB Senior Legal Adviser, said:

“Dr Osman’s case is one of many complaints we hear from blind and partially sighted people receiving communications from DWP in inaccessible formats. It’s therefore a huge step forward that the High Court has now declared the arrangements put in place by the DWP to be unlawful.”

The DWP has apologised to Dr Osman and is changing some of its procedures. We will monitor the progress on these changes and hope that the High Court ruling will encourage the DWP to ensure all blind and partially sighted people get the information they need in accessible formats.