EXCLUSIVE: DWP chiefs have issued the forms to thousands who are owed £970m in unpaid ESA benefit – leaving people looking for details from seven years ago (the Mirrror)
More than 250,000 sick and disabled people are being told to fill out a “scandalous” 45-page form to win back their benefits after a government blunder.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been branded “senseless” after asking families to recall intricate details from up to seven years ago.
The form asks claimants to state exact dates they were in hospital and give details of insurance payouts, mortgage payments and savings.
Campaigners warn it is “passing the buck” to benefit claimants who now face an “unnecessary barrier” to justice.
Shadow Minister for Disabled People Marsha De Cordova branded the form “scandalous”, adding: “People will very often not have kept the evidence the DWP is asking for which could lead to many being denied vital support once again.”
The form is being sent to thousands of people who are owed £970m in unpaid Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) dating back to 2011.
The blunder, revealed earlier this year, affects people who moved from older incapacity benefits to ESA between 2011 and 2014. In total 570,000 cases are being reviewed, of which 180,000 are expected to receive back payments by the end of 2019.
DWP chiefs insist everyone owed money will receive it. But some claimants expressed bafflement after the ESA3(IBR) form dropped on their doormats.
Carol Willoughby, 73, from Chessington, was asked to fill in details dating back to February 2013 for her 68-year-old husband Michael.
Questions on her form included “please provide dates that you have been an inpatient in hospital” and requests to state amounts of lump-sum state pension, trust fund income and money set aside for essential repairs.
Mrs Willoughby told the Mirror: “The DWP were supposed to check all the errors and deal with it.
“Now they’re putting the onus back onto us to provide all the information going back five years, half of which we won’t have any more.
“It will take me hours. They’re asking ‘have you been in hospital, when were you in, how long were you in for’.”
Quizzed about Mr Willoughby’s case, the DWP told the Mirror 261,000 forms had been sent out.
Campaigners were left shocked by the huge figure – which comes weeks after the Mirror revealed up to 15,000 people caught up in the scandal had already died.
James Taylor, Head of Policy at disability charity Scope, said: “This feels like the DWP is passing the buck onto disabled people and their families.
“They have already been short-changed by bureaucratic errors in the welfare system that go back nearly a decade.
“The DWP need to make sure that those who have missed out on their full ESA entitlement are payed back promptly with the minimum amount of stress and anxiety.”
Ayaz Manji, policy officer at mental health charity Mind, said the DWP must ensure “nobody falls through the gaps”.
He added: “Those of us with mental health problems can struggle to navigate a complex application process.
“The DWP needs to do all it can to take responsibility for fixing these errors.
“It’s senseless to place unnecessary barriers in front of those who have already gone through a lengthy, complicated and stressful process.”
A DWP spokeswoman insisted people only need to complete sections that are relevant to their circumstances.