MP quizzes DWP over £1.7 billion underpayment of benefits

Taking evidence on the Work and Pensions Select Committee today local MP Steve McCabe asked the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions, Peter Schofield, to explain figures that show the Department has underpaid claimants a staggering £1.7 billion.

Figures provided by the Comptroller & Auditor General suggest underpayments are at a record high levels. The Permanent Secretary couldn’t explain the figures but promised Mr McCabe he would write to the committee.

This revelation comes as the Department has been forced to admit that hundreds of thousands of people could be owed more than £1 Billion in unpaid ESA benefits.

Between January 2011 and October 2014 people receiving Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance had their claims converted to contributory ESA, however they could’ve also been entitled to income-related ESA but this was not considered for all cases. This means they may have missed out on payment premiums, such as the Enhanced Disability Premium.

The Department for Work and Pensions first became aware of some individual cases in 2013 and systems were changed in 2014 to prevent future errors. However, the Department is now in the process of reviewing around 570,000 ESA cases and believes about 180,000 more people are owed money for unpaid ESA.

Steve said:”These people owed are some of the most vulnerable in our communities and have been denied enhanced disability payments, in some cases for years. I want to know what the Department is doing to put this right as quickly as possible. Their approach to underpayments is a disgrace. I’ll be doing all that I can to help constituents get the money they are owed.”

The Department for Work & Pensions’ total expenditure on benefits in 2017-18 was £177.5 billion, of which £155.1 billion was for benefits paid directly by the Department and £22.4 billion was for Housing Benefit paid on its behalf by local authorities.