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MPs say thousands of ESA claimants failed by DWP 'culture of indifference'

18 July 2018

The Public Accounts Committee report finds Employment and Support Allowance underpayments were entirely avoidable and that swift action is needed to address harm caused.

Read the Public Accounts Committee report

Read Esther McVey's statement on ESA underpayments

Responding to the report, Ken Butler, welfare rights adviser with Disability Rights UK, said:

“This tawdry fiasco has seen incompetence aggravated by heartlessness and arrogance over many years.

"We can only endorse the report’s wording around the DWP’s ‘culture of indifference’. We echo the MPs disbelief that even now the DWP is failing to fully restore the additional losses experienced by thousands of people, such as free dentistry and prescriptions.”

DR UK CEO said:

“‘From the National Audit Office to parliamentary select committees, from Personal Independence Payment to Universal Credit, the litany of chaos doesn’t seem to register with the Department at all.”

Findings of the Public Accounts Committee

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to design a process that reflected its own legislation and failed to subject that process to proper scrutiny.

The DWP failed to:

  • listen to its own staff, claimants, or external stakeholders and experts who told it things were going wrong and that it needed to slow down

  • act even when it was painfully obvious that it was underpaying a significant number of people, taking over six years to take the necessary corrective action

The Department is now finally paying arrears, but it is only paying claimants some of the benefit they have missed out on. It is not planning to pay any compensation to reflect the lost value of passported benefits such as NHS prescriptions, dentistry treatment and free school meals.

The Committee encourages the Department to act swiftly, decisively and comprehensively to address the harm caused by this mistake and, more broadly, to give much greater priority to correcting benefit underpayments to vulnerable people.