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“CHRONIC” chaos at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has led to underpayments in disability benefits and millions of people being affected by the failings, Labour has claimed.
Shadow work and pensions minister Marsha De Cordova said an error leading to tens of thousands of disabled people being denied welfare benefits had caused them “significant hardship.”
In asking an urgent question on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) underpayments in the Commons, she told MPs that the mistake had hit those already “neglected by the government’s social security system.”
It follows a written statement by Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey published today that said that the department will pay backdated arrears to those affected by the delays when their Incapacity Benefit was converted to ESA.
The decision will end the policy of refusing to reimburse missed payments, which could increase the number of claimants receiving payments from 70,000 to 250,000 — with some in line for an additional £10,000.
Ms De Cordova called it “another climbdown from a department in chaos.”
She added: “The DWP was alerted to this error as early as 2013 but, in what the public accounts committee report described as a culture of indifference at the DWP, the error was neglected only to be taken up six years after it had occurred.
“The latest announcement is yet further evidence of a department in chaos, the chaos is chronic, millions of disabled people [are] affected by the DWP’s failures and it needs to be sorted and it needs to be sorted now.”
Minister for disabled people Sarah Newton fully accepted that the mistakes should not have happened but said ministers were acting “at pace” to resolve the issues as soon as possible.
Disabled People Against Cuts founder Linda Burnip told the Star she agreed with Ms De Cordova that “it’s total chaos.”
She said: “It’s typical of the government and the DWP that they would try to deny paying disabled people what they’re entitled to as long as possible.
“This is another example of how incompetent the DWP are and how they’re failing to manage to do their jobs.”
The DWP has accepted that it wrongly underpaid disabled people switching from Incapacity Benefit to ESA, and has begun the process of reimbursing an estimated £340 million relating to claims after October 2014.
But a recent report by the public accounts committee denounced the department for its “appalling” handling of the problem and said it should rethink the decision not to reimburse earlier underpayments dating back to 2011.
Ms McVey had released her written statement hours after the committee’s report, saying her department had reassessed its responsibilities.
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