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Chair comments on Government response to ESA underpayments

18 July 2018

The Public Accounts Committee this morning published a report examining errors in Employment and Support Allowance.

This afternoon, a Written Statement on ESA was made by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Chair's comments

Commenting on the Statement, Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP said:

"Today's PAC report identified serious failings in DWP's approach to administering Employment and Support Allowance—failings which led to some 70,000 claimants being underpaid for years.

I was appalled by the Department's apparent indifference to correcting its mistakes. Over several years the Department failed to act on information and intelligence from its own front line that the ESA transfer process was not working correctly.

Even when the Department agreed that it would pay arrears, it only intended to pay claimants some of the benefit they missed out on.

Today's statement, coming so soon after publication of our report, indicates DWP finally intends to treat this problem with the seriousness it deserves. It has today committed to paying claimants arrears back to the date of their conversion to ESA.

I welcome this announcement and look forward to seeing evidence of the Department's progress in putting right this wrong. But there is work for DWP to do if claims are to be settled quickly.

In particular, it must improve what has in some cases been an appalling standard of communication with claimants. The Department's most senior civil servant told our committee that even he could not understand some of the letters sent out.

This must be addressed quickly if DWP is to deliver on its promise and pay long-suffering claimants money to which they are rightly entitled."

Further information

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