How much of this money could have gone to disabled people suffering from austerity cuts?
The Government has taken on an extra 400 staff and redeployed another 400, meaning that 1,200 people will be working to check 600,000 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) cases. A report last year by the independent spending watchdog blamed ‘shoddy administration’ for the underpayments, which average £5,000 per claimant.
Amber Rudd – Secretary of State at the Department for Work & Pensions
In February Ministers admitted that an initial ‘sampling exercise’ had found that the problem was worse than thought and that 210,000 arrears payments could have to be made, 30,000 more than estimated.
Frank Field – Chairman of the Commons welfare committee
Mr. Field said that the cost of rectifying the mistake would probably exceed £1 billion. He added; “The department has been forced to admit that just the admin of fixing its own catastrophic incompetence is going to add another £40 million to the cost of this serially botched operation.”
He continued to criticise the department by saying; “the awful, error ridden assessment process and ‘miserable and lengthy’ appeals, have meant that tens of thousands of disabled people have not been given money they are owed. And the department could be heading for another billion pound scandal as staff continued wrongly to refuse disabled people the support they need.”
A letter from a top civil servant at the department confirmed that the latest expected cost for administering payments to 310,000 underpaid claimants would be £21 million in 2018-19 and £19 million in 2019-20. The letter states that 400 extra staff were recruited in 2018-19 ‘directly to support the ESA underpayment exercise’.