The Public Accounts Committee will examine Employment and Support Allowance on Monday 21 May 2018.
Scope of the inquiry
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit paid to people who have limited capability to work owing to disability of illness. It is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions. Since 2011, the government has been transferring people onto ESA from other previous benefits.
A recent National Audit Office report found that an estimated 70,000 people had not been paid the full amount of ESA that they were entitled to. On average, people have been underpaid by £5,000, leaving the Department with a total of £340 million owed to claimants. In order to fix the problem, the Department has tasked about 400 of its staff with reviewing 300,000 ESA cases. It told the NAO that it expects to pay up to £830 million more in ESA by 2023 than it originally expected, even though eligible claimants will only be compensated for previous underpayments from 21 October 2014.
The Committee will ask representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions how the error came about, why it took so long to uncover, and how it will ensure it does not happen again. The Committee will also ask whether the Department is doing enough to support ESA claimants and make sure those who are entitled to benefits receive all they are owed.