5,000 sick and disabled people died whilst waiting to receive unpaid disability benefits owed to them by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), official Government statistics reveal.
Between January 2011 and October 2014 thousands of people receiving Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance were moved to Contribution-Based Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
However, it later emerged that many of these people may also have been entitled to Income-Related ESA, which meant they may have missed out on the payment of premiums, such as the Enhanced Disability Premium.
The DWP later admitted to the error and announced it would carry out a review to discover how many people who had been awarded Contribution-Based ESA should instead have been awarded Income-Related ESA.
The department estimated that around 70,000 people may have been underpaid ESA, amounting to around £340 million in underpayments, between 2011 and 2014 and began contacting those affected.
However, figures released by the DWP on Thursday show that 5,000 people died before being paid the benefits owed to them. The DWP say that these payments have been made to the person’s next of kin.
Evan Odell, a researcher at Disability Rights UK, described today’s announcement as “scandalous”, while Labour said it is “national scandal” that so many people had died awaiting the benefits they were entitled to.
Evan Odell : “That 5,000 disabled people were denied the proper support to live independently before they died is scandalous, as is the 112,000 people who had had to wait years for these errors to be corrected.
“To make matters worse the problems with the employment and support allowance system that have led to hundreds of millions of pounds of arrears payments are still present.
“Seventy-five per cent of ESA applicants who appeal DWP decisions to the social security tribunal win; this case is merely one more piece of evidence showing how ESA is not fit for purpose.”
Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, said: “It is a national scandal that a decade of delay has meant that 5,000 ill and disabled people have died before receiving the money that they were owed as a result of ESA underpayments.
“The government must now speedily complete the remaining reassessments for the thousands of people still waiting so that everyone who has lost out receives payment as quickly as possible.
“The Conservatives have consistently failed sick and disabled people. The continued delay in righting this wrong is disgraceful.”