Tomorrow morning at 9:30 the outgoing head of the NAO, Sir Amyas Morse, will give evidence on DWP’s administration of Carer’s Allowance, following the NAO’s “devastating” report on years of overpayments of the benefit to unpaid carers that the Department now intends to claw back: in some cases for up to 34 years.
When the NAO’s report was published last month, Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field said it “devastatingly laid bare the incompetence at DWP, and its stark human cost. Not for the first time, we see DWP squeezing those least able to afford it. It will chase down carers who provide such an immense service to our society, potentially cutting their income for decades – when it knows that a large part of the responsibility lies squarely at its own door. Worse still, the NAO shows that DWP hasn’t bothered to find out what clawing back these sums will cost carers and the people they care for, in every sense.”
In this “valedictory” appearance for the Comptroller and Auditor General, questioning will focus on the detail of the NAO’s findings behind the report, before potentially moving on to any wider issues of concern for the NAO at the Department. The Committee will then ask DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield for the Department’s response to the NAO and the Committee’s findings.
Ahead of the session, the Committee is publishing the latest exchange of correspondence with DWP in its work on Overpayments of Carer's Allowance. The letters, from then Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton, answer a series of questions from the Committee about the number and level of overpayments, and the Department’s approach to both fixing its own, protracted error, and clawing back the money it overpaid from unpaid carers going forward.
The first response from the Department (dated 28 January 2019) answers some of the Chair’s 14 detailed questions over 11 pages. It appears to include the admission, under Question 8, that among other problems contributing to the massive administrative failure was the inability of the central IT to generate a different award letter, to make the rules clearer for carers.
Wednesday 15 May 2019, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster
- Sir Amyas Morse KCB, Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office
- Joshua Reddaway, Director Work and Pensions Value for Money, National Audit Office
- Peter Schofield, Permanent Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions
- Emma Haddad, Director General, Service Excellence, Department for Work and Pensions
- Laura Squire, Head of Fraud, Error and Debt, Strategy, Policy, and Change, Department for Work and Pensions
Image: NAO logo