DWP owes £340 million in benefits to disabled people

Disabled benefits web

Government errors means thousands of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) recipients have been dramatically underpaid

21st March 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Tens of thousands of disabled people were wrongly underpaid for years by social security officials.

An estimated 70,000 claimants were underpaid about £340 million between 2011 and 2014 after being transferred from older benefits onto employment and support allowance (ESA).

The National Audit Office has said that some people involved are owed as much as £20,000. The average underpayment is likely to be around £5,000.

The error occurred when officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to follow their own legal guidelines governing the transfer process, meaning that in many cases they failed to properly check claimants’ full entitlements.

The DWP has said it is committed to correcting its error and will pay arrears over the next year. It has redeployed staff to review around 300,000 cases, at a cost of around £14 million, to identify people affected and pay arrears where due.

Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, said: “The facts of this case are that tens of thousands of people, most of whom have severely limiting disabilities and illnesses, have been underpaid by thousands of pounds each, while the department for several years failed to get a proper grip on the problem.”

A DWP spokesperson said that people affected would be contacted and that repayments had already began.

Charities that work with disabled people were quick to criticise the actions of the government.

Genevieve Edwards, the director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: “Around a quarter of all people with MS access ESA as they can no longer work due to ill health. Many have told us the support they receive isn’t enough to pay for the basics and so any underpayment would obviously have a huge impact on their lives.”

Ken Butler, of Disability Rights UK, said that the report by the audit office made for sorry reading.