Tory welfare chief Esther McVey claimed a huge review would help up to 220,000 PIP claimants. But a year later, just 3,500 have got extra benefits – a measly 0.8% so far
Tory welfare chiefs have been slammed after admitting a vast review of disability benefits has repaid just a few thousand people so far.
Ministers originally said up to 220,000 people would get higher Personal Independence Payment (PIP) following a High Court victory.
But a year since a review began, just 3,500 of the first 440,000 people – 0.8% – have received back payments of benefits.
If that trend continues, fewer than 15,000 of 1.6million reviews in total will end in a back payment.
That is despite more than 250 extra staff being hired to work on the review, which is not expected to finish until next year.
Charities and MPs demanded an investigation into why the number of repayments was lower than expected.
Ayaz Manji of mental health charity Mind said he was “incredibly alarmed”, adding: “If this is due to an error in the way these numbers were estimated, this is an error of monumental proportions.
“There will be thousands of people with mental health problems who will rightly be worried that the Government have not upheld their commitment to review their claims fully and fairly.
“We need to see an independent investigation to understand what has gone wrong here and what action the Department for Work and Pensions needs to take to fix it.”
Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, added: “These figures are truly shocking.
“Without PIP, many sick and disabled people will be left destitute.
“The DWP must urgently answer why there is such a significant disparity between the department’s estimate and the results.
“Many disabled people will understandably fear that this is yet another error by a shambolic Tory-run DWP.”
PIP is worth up to £148.85 a week to fund costs of being disabled, and the average back payment has been £4,500 per person.
The review is thanks to a 2016 tribunal, which ruled people who suffer “overwhelming psychological distress” travelling alone should qualify more easily.
At first ministers rewrote the law to avoid paying higher PIP. But they U-turned after the High Court ruled the government’s behaviour was “blatantly discriminatory”.
Ministers began reviewing cases in June 2018 and promised to fund back payments dating to November 2016.
In 2017 officials claimed the U-turn would cost £3.7bn in five years.
And speaking in January 2018, then-welfare chief Esther McVey said “it could affect up to 220,000 people.”
But today the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it had “always been clear this was an estimate”.
DWP officials insisted guidance had been drawn up with key organisations including Mind.
Officials also claimed it would be wrong to say 14% of people – 220,000 out of 1.6million – were originally predicted to benefit.
That is because the 220,000 figure was for all people predicted to benefit up to March 2023, the DWP said.
That means they were drawn from both the 1.6million reviewed cases, and future cases of people who aren’t being paid PIP yet.
A DWP source said: “The estimates we gave for the numbers benefiting included new claimants, as well as those benefiting from the administrative exercise. The estimates run beyond the administrative exercise period to 2022/23.”
But regardless of the exact number, the DWP admitted fewer people are getting extra benefits than it first predicted.
DWP minister Justin Tomlinson wrote in a letter to Labour: “The published data shows that numbers benefitting from this exercise are lower than the original estimates would suggest.
“The original estimates were done before the final guidance, which implemented the judgment, had been produced.
“There was therefore significant uncertainty around the estimates as set out at the time.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ensuring that disabled people and those with health conditions get the support they are entitled to, and the proportion of people with mental health conditions who get the higher rate of PIP is five times higher than under DLA.
“We have always been clear that this was an estimate which was produced before we knew the full detail of who would be eligible.
“We have assurance processes in place so that this is done in full and fairly and we are on track to complete the exercise by 2020.”
Source: Daily mirror