More than 4,500 sick and disabled people were wrongly refused benefits despite having a “good reason” for missing assessments, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted today.
The startling admission was slipped out in a statement to MPs as they prepared to head off for their winter break, in what some campaigners have described as a ‘deliberate attempt to bury bad news’.
“We expect around 4,600 people to gain as a result of this review exercise”, the statement says. However, the Independent reports that many of these people have yet to identified.
The figure refers to the number of disabled people who were stripped of their Disability Living Allowance payments during cruel changes to the benefit system, and comes a year after courts ruled that the payments should not have been stopped.
“Subsequently, DWP decision makers or tribunals have decided the claimant had a ‘good reason’ for not attending or participating,” said Sarah Newton MP, the minister for disabled people.
“The decision states that, in these instances, claimants’ DLA awards should be reinstated, until a final decision on their PIP claim, and back paid, as necessary.
“We accept that the same approach applies where claimants who failed to provide information or evidence were later found to have ‘good reason’ for the failure to comply.”
This embarrassing blunder follows an earlier DWP error where at least 180,000 people were underpaid benefits between 2011 and 2014, on being transferred from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The DWP also admitted today that only around 1,000 of these claimants have been paid the monies owed to them, leaving thousands more waiting to find out when they will be paid.
It is estimated that repaying everyone who was underpaid ESA will cost the government around £970 million.
Some of those affected will be paid in the New Year, but others could have to wait years before receiving the benefits they are legally entitled to.
Sue Bott, Deputy CEO Disability Rights UK, said the issue had been a “disaster for disabled people”.
“Most faced financial difficulties because they were unable to work. Despite that, many still have not received the money they are owed – and some of them have died waiting for the back payment.”
People affected by either or both of these errors will be notified by the DWP, but disability campaigners have urged anyone who feel they may be among those affected to contact the department as soon as reasonably possible.