By Jasmin Gray
Ministers have admitted an extra 30,000 sick and disabled people missed out on thousands of pounds worth of payments in a historic benefits blunder.
New government estimates released on Thursday suggested that as many as 210,000 people were underpaid Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – a key benefit for people who cannot work because of illness or disability – after being transferred to the benefits scheme, which was introduced in 2011.
Those hit by the scandal are owed an average of £4,000, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), led by Amber Rudd, said.
It is now set to pay out £920m addressing the underpayments, £50m less than the original estimate.
But the data also revealed that of the 570,000 cases ministers are reviewing, around 20,000 claimants have already died.
“Once again disabled people are suffering as a result of the chaos at the heart of the DWP,” said shadow disabilities minister Marsha de Cordova.
“This mess is yet another example of the hostile environment created for disabled people by this Conservative government.
“It is scandalous that tens of thousands of disabled people have died before receiving the social security that they were owed.”
The government had previously believed that around 180,000 people had been affected by the blunder.
Figures show that, to date, the government has paid benefit arrears to around 58,000 people, awarding an average of £6,000 per case.
As of February 11, the government had paid out a total of £328m.
James Taylor, head of policy at disability equality charity Scope, said disabled people had been “short-changed by bureaucratic errors in the welfare system”.
“On top of that efforts to clean up the mess have been beset by delays and failings,” he said.
“ESA is a financial lifeline for many disabled people to live independently and be part of their community.
“The DWP need to make sure that those who have missed out on their full ESA entitlement are payed back promptly with the minimum amount of stress and anxiety.”