The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under fire again after it revealed that 20,000 people who may have been owed back payments of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit have already died. ESA is supposed to provide financial support to ill or disabled people unable to work.
In the latest chapter of the ongoing benefits scandal, the DWP also admitted that an additional 30,000 people are owed benefits. The Mirror reported the new estimates, which suggest a total of 210,000 people have been underpaid ESA.
The ESA underpayments date back to 2011 and were uncovered in 2017. Previous estimates suggested there were 180,000 victims.
So far 58,000 people have received back payments, at an average of £6000 per person. The total paid so is around £328m – but is expected to rise to £920m.
The DWP is currently in stage one of assessing the 600,000 potential underpayment cases. Of the 20,000 people who have died, not all will have been owed a payment. But the department has committed to tracing family of the deceased to pay the money owed if they were.
1,200 staff have been employed to investigate the blunder, with the investigation expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
“Chaos at the heart of the DWP”
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Once again disabled people are suffering as a result of the chaos at the heart of the DWP.
This mess is yet another example of the hostile environment created for disabled people by this Conservative Government. It is scandalous that tens of thousands of disabled people have died before receiving the social security that they were owed.
The MP added that the failure of the government to put this right is “disgraceful”.
Cruel and heartless
On social media, Labour MP Stephanie Peacock slammed the government’s “incompetence and cruelty”:
DWP admits 210,000 people are owed around £6000 each in ESA back pay. Govt claims to be sorting but it’s too late for 20,000 victims who have sadly died. Once again Tory incompetence and cruelty is hitting some of the most vulnerable in our society: https://t.co/eOtYYpjc46
— Stephanie Peacock (@Steph_Peacock) February 21, 2019
Some called on the department to offer a full apology to the families:
It is not too late for 20,000 potential victims who've already died. Give the money to their families with a full apology. https://t.co/KWt6Yklgey
— Norma 🏴 Learmonth (@Norrie30) February 21, 2019
According to the Mirror report, a DWP spokesperson said:
We are making good progress reviewing and correcting cases and repaying claimants affected by past ESA underpayments, with over £300 million of arrears paid so far.
All claimants in the first phase have now been contacted and we have 1,200 specialist staff working to ensure no one loses out.
Where a claimant has sadly died we are ensuring that any arrears owed to them are paid to their next of kin.
These latest figures show just how costly mistakes at the DWP have been. Surely the people of this country deserve better.
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