An unemployed Co Tyrone man’s High Court challenge to being denied a budgeting loan could result in UK-wide reforms to the benefits system, it was claimed this week
Raymond Archer’s lawyer made the prediction as he was granted leave to seek a judicial review over allegations of suffering discrimination in requests for financial help.
He claims to have been unfairly classed as ineligible for receiving contributions-based, rather than income based, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The refusal to properly consider his budgeting loan applications last November and in April was unlawful, his legal team argued.
It was stated that he has contributed to society by previously paying tax and national insurance, while those on income-based ESA have not.
He worked in factories and as a labourer until being seriously injured in a car accident which left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his affidavit.
With repayments continuing on a crisis loan received last December, he is currently on £64.50 a week benefits.
Mr Archer described himself as desperate and in urgent need of the money.
Papers in the case claim the Department for Social Development has failed to give reasons justifying why those on contribution-based ESA are ineligible while others on an identical income under income-based ESA are permitted.
The rules are irrational, discriminatory and in breach of the principles of equality, it was alleged.
Following an initial hearing Mr Justice Treacy ruled that an arguable case has been established on some grounds of challenge.
The case will now advance to a full judicial review application later this year.
Outside court Mr Archer’s solicitor, Conal McGarrity of PA Duffy and Co, claimed the action could have widespread implications.
He said: “The overriding objective of a budgeting loan is to provide financial assistance to those most in need within our society and in failing to include the applicant and others in his position as entitled applicants under the scheme we state that the State has breached our client’s human rights.”
Stressing the prohibition on discrimination under the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr McGarrity said his client is being treated differently to those entitled to income-based ESA even though he receives no more money. He added: “This is a judgment which has the potential to reform the benefits system not only in Northern Ireland but also in England and Wales.”