The SNP has demanded that Amber Rudd come before Parliament to answer questions on the growing ESA payments scandal – after it emerged as many as 20,000 sick and disabled claimants have died while still potentially owed overdue back-payments by the UK government.

Neil Gray MP, SNP Social Justice spokesperson, said the UK government must finally “get a grip” of the spiralling scandal, speed up the repayments process, and launch an urgent DWP-wide review of procedures to identify and prevent further payment errors.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

The MP accused the Tory government of presiding over a catalogue of errors that have left sick and disabled people worse off and struggling to get by.

The call for action comes after the DWP was forced to admit that a further 30,000 claimants were owed money as a result of miscalculations in the transition to ESA, taking the total to around 210,000.

The error dates back to 2011 and was first identified in December 2016 but the situation has not been resolved and further errors continue to emerge.

Commenting, Neil Gray MP said: “The shameful admission by the UK government that as many as 20,000 people died while they were still potentially owed ESA back-payment money is yet another damning indictment of the Tories’ callous policies.

“It marks the latest chapter in a catalogue of errors in the UK government’s damaging approach to social security, which has demonstrably harmed peoples’ lives and plunged sick and disabled people into poverty and hardship.

“With nearly 210,000 claimants identified as being underpaid as a result of miscalculations in the botched transition to ESA.

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“Amber Rudd must urgently get a grip of this spiralling scandal, speed up the repayments process, and launch a department-wide review of procedures to identify and prevent any further errors in the benefits system.

“The UK government must also ensure that any payments found to be owed in the cases of those who have died must still go to the families.

“The Secretary of State must come before Parliament, and set out what steps are already underway regarding other social security payments to ensure that similar errors have not occurred, as well as guaranteeing that the resources going into these investigations and back payments are not coming out of the existing DWP budget.

“As Brexit chaos consumes Westminster, the Tory government is failing to get on with the day job and is failing some of the most vulnerable people across Scotland and the UK.

“It is high time the DWP got its head out of the sand and acted before it consigns more people into poverty and hardship.”

Disclaimer: This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Image added by Welfare Weekly.