An ombudsman has warned that the UK government should allow more than 100,000 disabled and ill people to seek compensation after a “mistake” caused their benefits to be accidentally cut.
According to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO), payments to at least 118,000 people with disabilities and health problems were wrongly deducted when they were taken over the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from other benefits.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has since corrected the error and paid a total of £613 million to those affected.
It said those affected “are facing injustice” and should be able to claim compensation in recognition of the error and its “potentially disastrous effect” on their lives.
One of the low-wage earners is 62-year-old Ms. Yu, who was unable to heat the house she lives alone in and buy food.
According to the PHSO investigation, she lost her hair, lost weight and her mental and physical health deteriorated.
Ms Yu, who was recovering from heart surgery and has schizophrenia, arthritis, high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, had her pay cut by about £80 a week for five years when she moved to ESA in 2012.
This was because he had received payments only on the basis of his National Insurance contributions, when he too should have received payments based on his income.
The PHSO said Ms U only received what a person with a severe disability should have as a minimum requirement, and was unable to access linked benefits such as free prescriptions or money to buy a washing machine.
She was at risk of hypothermia and her arthritis got worse as she lost £700 in warm home remission.
The DWP gave him £19,832.55 in arrears – about £80 a week.
The Ombudsman has ruled that the “mismanagement” caused an “unforeseen injustice” to Ms Yu, and that the DWP should apologize and pay £7,500 in compensation for having suffered “extreme financial and personal hardship”. should do.
The DWP said it would issue an apology and make additional special payments as recommended.
The PSHO also recommended that the government reconsider its decision to deny compensation to the affected people.
Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “It is human to make mistakes but not to act for right and wrong is a matter of policy choice. In this case, the choice has been made by the same organization responsible for helping those most in need.
“Affected people are unable to claim compensation for this error, there is poor public policy in practice, and the situation is made worse by the fact that they have already waited for years to receive the benefits they deserve. They are entitled.
“We don’t know how many more Ms. There are. So I urge DWP to allow those affected to claim compensation in recognition of their mistake and its potentially devastating impact on people’s lives.”
Councilor Mary Lolawar, the cabinet member for trade and economic development in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said the process of restoring Ms Yu’s benefits had been a very long process that had put her “through extreme and unnecessary hardship”.
She said: “I am glad that the Ombudsman has ruled that Ms U is entitled to compensation from the DWP.
“We stand in solidarity with the recommendations of the Ombudsman, in which the DWP has asked the DWP to automatically compensate everyone who has also been affected by its mistake.”
Anastasia Berry, policy manager at MS Society and policy co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, said: “The decision not to compensate those affected by this latest blunder is yet another DWP’s move to treat people with disabilities like second-class citizens. Example is.
“DWP should provide past-dated payments, but this alone does nothing to address the devastating knock-on effects that people with disabilities, such as Ms. Yu, have endured as a result of the mistake.”
Louise Rubin, head of policy at disability equality charity Scope, said: “This catastrophic error must have left many people with disabilities and their families struggling to make ends meet.
“People with disabilities should not fight for support. It is fitting that the government now ensures that all those who have been left out can claim compensation.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure that all people receive the financial assistance they deserve and we have identified those affected by this issue, which has cleared 118,000 benefit dues.”
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