Government questioned on Employment and Support Allowance underpayments

25 February 2019

Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea, has asked the Government to make a statement on Employment and Support Allowance underpayments.

In a report published on Thursday 22 February 2019, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that it had identified a higher than expected number of individuals whose benefits may have been underpaid since the introduction of the Employment and Support Allowance.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008 for people who have limited capability to work because they are disabled or ill.

In October 2018, the DWP admitted that up to 180,000 people could be eligible for repayment following past underpayments of ESA, which arose while reassessing incapacity benefit claims. It has now revised this estimate up, publishing the details in a report.

Speaking for the DWP, the Minister of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, Sarah Newton apologised and said;

"We realise how important it is to get this matter fixed and clearly the mistakes should never have happened, but we know it’s vital it’s sorted as quickly as possible […] We are on track to complete work on the majority of the original 320,00 cases by the end of April this year."

Responding to the statement, Marsha de Cordova said that the underpayments had forced ill and disabled people into poverty, and asked the minister to apologise. She asked

"How many people have been pushed into rent arrears, council tax arrears, debt and destitution?" 

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