Sick and disabled people to get share of £1bn in benefits that they’d lost in blunder – are you eligible?

Courtesy Manchester evening news.

The Government is to pay benefits totalling nearly £1bn to thousands of sick and disabled people after a blunder saw them denied payments.

It was reported last year that about 70,000 claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) had been shortchanged over the course of seven years.

Claimants lost out by around £5,000 each in the blunder – with some owed £20,000.

But it’s now emerged that the fault has affected far more people – and the cost has also skyrocketed.

Conservative ministers now say that number of people potentially owed money has risen to 180,000. The Mirror reports that estimated amount of the back payments has rocketed to £970million.

The sum puts huge strain on government finances just a day after leaked plans emerged to spend hundreds of millions of pounds improving Universal Credit.

The bill has partly increased due to a major Tory U-turn in July.

Previously the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) only planned to refund people for benefits they were denied after 21 October 2014.

But facing a legal challenge, Tory welfare chief Esther McVey caved to calls to refund people all the way back to 2011.

The bill has also increased due to extra evidence gathered by a a 400-strong DWP team who are still reviewing 570,000 cases.

MPs previously said the disaster showed “weakness at the highest level of government” while the National Audit Office condemned ministers for failing to “get a grip”.

Labour MP Neil Coyle said: “This has revealed even more chaos at DWP with thousands more disabled people denied vital help”.

Rob Holland, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium which represents 80 charities and campaign groups, said: “It’s welcome that the Government has been able to identify the thousands of sick and disabled people who have missed out.

“Close to half of those living in poverty are disabled or live with a disabled family member and have little in the way of a financial safety net.

“Given this, in addition to making sure disabled people are paid the money owed from this error, the Government must look to the forthcoming Budget to reverse the cuts built into the new Universal Credit as well.

“To not do so risks pushing many disabled people further into poverty.”

Today’s latest estimates, released by the DWP, show £810million in arrears will be paid to 105,000 people between now and April 2019.

Another £160million in arrears will then be paid to an estimated 75,000 people in the 2019/20 financial year.

On top of this, the DWP will also have to continue funding people’s higher benefit claims as time goes on. This will cost £60million in 2018/19 and £130million in 2019/20, the figures show.

These costs will then gradually reduce as ESA claimants are moved on to Universal Credit.

 

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