Demand for Royal Commission to find out why Tories insist on under-paying the disabled

Frances Ryan has been writing about the Conservatives’ war against people with illnesses and disabilities for years, so I’ll let her set the scene:

Check out the Guardian article if you like, but I’m going to quote from The Independent:

A lengthening list of scandals [has] emerged as a result of the reforms originally put into place by Iain Duncan Smith. I bet some of his colleagues have a 15-rated word for him, and perhaps a few 18-rated words too. Disabled people could help them find some if they’re struggling.

The latest foul-up has been publicised by the National Audit Office. Its report details how the DWP, now under the command of Esther McVey, underpaid an estimated 70,000 people moved from other benefits to what is known as employment and support allowance (ESA).

According to the NAO, the average underpayment comes to £5,000 but some people are owned much more than that. The report quotes the figure of £20,000.

Many people in reasonably well-paid jobs would incur serious hardship through losing out on such sums, let alone people with disabilities and illnesses that the NAO’s chief Sir Amyas Morse correctly described in the press notice accompanying the report as “severely limiting”.

We have been here before, and many times. Scandals like this crop up with a depressing regularity.

The whole awful mess demands a rather wider inquiry, even a royal commission, because not only has it heaped untold misery on to some of society’s most vulnerable people, it has cost the taxpayer a fortune. The administrative costs of all this are staggering.

I don’t know about you but, having written about the terrifying effects on the sick and disabled of this government-determined deprivation, I’m all in favour of a Royal Commission. This would be a major, formal, public inquiry into the issue of government failure to pay the sick and disabled properly. Further information and a list of UK Royal Commissions is here.

The Guardian‘s article has this to say about the way the Tories have delayed rectifying their mistakes:

The error occurred when officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to follow their own legal guidelines governing the transfer process, meaning that in many cases they failed to properly check claimants’ full entitlements.

The DWP “failed to get a grip” on the problem for several years despite being alerted to it by staff as early as 2013, the NAO said. Even when it recognised its error as systemic in 2014 it ignored the issue of repayments for a further 18 months.

Although in May 2016 the DWP’s fraud and error team identified an ongoing and significant issue with underpayments, officials prevaricated for a further year before accepting the department had a legal duty to identify and repay affected claimants.

An estimated 45,000 claimants are owed about £2,500, a further 20,000 stand to receive £11,500, with a small number owed as much as £20,000. The size of the repayments varies depending on an individual’s entitlements and the length of their claim.

To me, that seems like a deliberate decision to deprive people of the money they were owed, in the knowledge that this could cause serious harm.

It’s easily deniable, see?

“We made a mistake; we apologise,” and they move on.

But the sheer volume of under-payments, and the length of time involved, makes this appear far more sinister – and that’s why I like the idea of a Royal Commission.

Some of these people might be keen on it too:

I reckon Nosila, below, has the right idea about the reason for the underpayments:

Any objections?

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7 thoughts on “Demand for Royal Commission to find out why Tories insist on under-paying the disabled

  1. Stu

    Has it occurred to anyone that if the back-payments are made in full, then those income based recipients will go over their savings threshold and have their benefits stopped?
    This will easily help to off-set the Government’s outlay considerably.

    1. John

      The payment would not be classed as a single lump sum. Any back pay is calculated over the time it was supposed to have been paid, so the threshold would not be met in this case, thankfully.

  2. Liz Douglasl

    This might just do it

    “Social justice
    To live up to the promise of the Prime Minister’s words that Britain become “a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us”, the Education Committee calls for the SMC to have greater resources and powers to enable it to publish social justice impact assessments on Government policies and to proactively advise Ministers on social justice issues, rather than just at the request of Ministers as currently. The Committee expresses concern at the ‘farcical’ failed appointments process for new Commissioners, regrets the fact that the SMC’s membership was allowed to dwindle to four Commissioners (from an initial membership of ten), and recommends a minimum membership of seven members in addition to the Chair.

    Stronger powers for the Social Mobility Commission
    Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP for Harlow, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

    “Without stronger powers the Social Mobility Commission will do little to tackle social injustices and give the most vulnerable in society the chance they deserve to climb the ladder of opportunity.

    The Government needs to co-ordinate the social justice agenda from the centre and should give a Minister in the Cabinet Office specific responsibility to lead on this work and to ensure that the policies deliver in improving opportunities for all.

    It’s crucial that a new body is created inside Government with the levers and powers to co-ordinate and drive forward initiatives across Whitehall and ensure social justice is delivered across the country.

    We need a Commission which has the teeth to undertake objective assessments of the implications for social justice of Government policies and is properly equipped to hold Ministers’ feet to the fire on social mobility.

    The Prime Minister sent a strong message when she spoke on the steps of No.10 about the importance of fighting against the burning injustice in our society, setting out a commitment to ensure our country works for all, not just the privileged few. But if we are to tackle the social crisis in our country, we must devote far greater energy and focus to the social justice agenda.

    Alan Milburn, Baroness Shephard and the other Commissioners at the SMC did great and necessary work in highlighting the islands of social injustice that exist in our country. It’s vital that the SMC is not now left to whistle in the wind.”

    Main recommendations
    The Committee recommends that a better-resourced independent body – a revamped SMC – should work in tandem with a body inside Government to coordinate action and implement solutions. The report says there must be clear communication between the two bodies to ensure that the implementation and coordination body is able to act effectively on the Commission’s research.

    The Education Committee is clear that the Commission should seek to offer all people equal access to opportunities and recommends the name be changed to the Social Justice Commission.

    Alongside the report, the Committee has published a draft Bill which would give effect to all the changes to the Social Mobility Commission that the Committee recommends in its report.

  3. Jill Jervis

    I haven’t had a rise on my ESA benefit for the last ten years and I’m sure that is illegal. The amount I receive is over the basic because I got the extra they paid sick pay depending on your earnings. Is this the underpayment that everyone is talking about?

  4. Jim Gough

    If the Tories are involved in anything, then its just incompetence, lies and evilness. They are just utter cnuts, as are those who support them.

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