Figures sneaked out today by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal that around 118,000 sick and disabled people were affected by underpayments of benefits when moved from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The figures show that the DWP has explored a potential 600,000 cases of possible underpayment, of which 482,000 were found not to have been affected.
However, 118,000 of the 600,000 potential cases have been substantiated by the DWP, with an average arrears payment of £5,000 per case.
Around 53,000 of the 600,000 cases checked by the DWP were where the claimant had since passed away.
In these instances, the DWP contacted 22,000 of the deceased relatives to aquire more information about the claims.
It was discovered that 7,000 of these claimants had been underpaid ESA benefits prior to their death, with average arrears payment of £3,000 per person.
The total amount of historical ESA arrears paid out by the DWP in the wake of this massive blunder has been a shocking £613 million.
Around £26 million of this was paid out to the next of kin of deceased sick and disabled people, but the DWP claim there were 3,000 cases where they were unable to contact the deceased person’s relatives.
Furthermore, there were 4,000 cases where the claimant had died and their next of kin did not provide the information needed to review the individual ESA claims.
The DWP has urged people who have not responded to the Department’s requests for additional information to get in touch so that their cases can be “actioned” as quickly as possible.
The publication of today’s figures is the final update on the checking exercise following on from the last release on 12 January 2020.
The DWP hopes this will “reduce the administrative burden of answering Parliamentary Questions, Freedom of Information requests and ad hoc queries to ensure timely responses to public queries.”
However, questions remain on whether the DWP could have missed cases where people may have been underpaid ESA benefits when transferred from Incapacity Benefit.
And with the migration of disabled people from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) yet to be fully completed, the DWP will want to avoid another error on this magnitude.