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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