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Government forced to apologise to 118,000 disabled and ill people who saw benefits slashed

THE government was forced to apologise today to more than 118,000 disabled and sick people whose benefits were slashed when they were transferred to a new system.

Work and Pensions Minister David Rutley “unreservedly” apologised directly to Ms U, a claimant whose benefit was cut after she was transferred to employment support allowance (ESA), leaving her unable to heat her home and buy food.

At least 118,000 people with disabilities and health problems had their payments wrongly cut when they were moved onto ESA from other benefits, according to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that it has since corrected the error and paid arrears totalling £613 million to those affected.

Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth told the Commons that the apology was welcome, but “it is no good ministers putting their fingers in their ears and pretending that there is not a bigger problem here.”

He quoted the report as saying that the issue was an “unremedied injustice,” which he said was “impacting on some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Mr Ashworth asked whether the government would provide compensation.

Mr Rutley replied: “In these situations, we are typically not compelled to come forward with blanket compensation payments, but we will consider the views of the report.

“We would also say to people that if they want to contact us, the DWP, if they believe that they should be available to have compensation, then they can contact the various helplines we have set up.”

Mr Rutley told the Commons that a “formal” apology would be offered, with additional payments to the 118,000 claimants who had lost out.

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