Caroline Flint has welcomed a victory for one in twenty of the Doncaster claimants of Employment and Support Allowance, who were underpaid by the Department for Work and Pensions following their transfer from Incapacity Benefit.
The Government announcement of repayments, which is expected to cost £390 million, follows a damning report by the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee, of which Ms Flint is a member. At least 70,000 claimants lost out across England and Wales due to Government mistakes.
Said Caroline: “This is a victory for many people in Doncaster, and across the country, who were poorly treated by the DWP when they were transferred to the new ESA benefit. This has affected at least one in every twenty claimants who were transferred from Incapacity Benefit. For some, after a seven year wait, justice cannot come too quickly.
“Many have waited seven years to be compensated for the losses and hardship these underpayments created through no fault on the part of the claimants. Sadly, for many, the Government payments will come too late.
“A corner stone of the welfare state is that it provides help when people need it and it is fair to the taxpayer and to those who may need support. Government incompetence has cost the taxpayer money and has caused hardship to thousands of people. I hope this announcement provides justice to some.”
Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, has admitted this will cost at least £390million to resolve and the numbers affected may go up.
The PAC report identified serious failings in DWP’s approach to administering Employment and Support Allowance, failings which led to some 70,000 claimants being underpaid for years.
Med Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: “I was appalled by the Department’s apparent indifference to correcting its mistakes. Over several years the Department failed to act on information and intelligence from its own front line that the ESA transfer process was not working correctly. Even when the Department agreed that it would pay arrears, it only intended to pay claimants some of the benefit they missed out on.
“The Government statement, coming so soon after publication of our report, indicates DWP finally intends to treat this problem with the seriousness it deserves. It has today committed to paying claimants arrears back to the date of their conversion to ESA.
“I welcome this announcement and look forward to seeing evidence of the Department’s progress in putting right this wrong. But there is work for DWP to do if claims are to be settled quickly. In particular, it must improve what has in some cases been an appalling standard of communication with claimants. The Department’s most senior civil servant told our committee that even he could not understand some of the letters sent out. This must be addressed quickly if DWP is to deliver on its promise and pay long-suffering claimants money to which they are rightly entitled."
The PAC report can be found HERE.
The Ministerial statement can be found HERE.