Today, my colleague Marsha De Cordova secured an Urgent Question requiring the government to outline the numbers of people affected by the underpayment of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments.
This benefit is paid to people who are too ill to work – a safety net for them and their families.
Yet the Department of Work and Pensions has admitted it made mistakes in paying benefits, and that up to 180,000 people might be owed arrears payments.
The majority of these cases are historic, dating back between 2011-14. But many people who contact me report ongoing problems with claiming ESA.
So today I raise the case of my constituent who has been left without ESA payments since September 2017. It was only after I intervened that the DWP realised he had “slipped through the net” and started paying him his proper entitlement. But he still has no appeal date, and if he is successful, he could be owed over £4,000 in back payments.
I put it to the minister that it is not acceptable to talk of people “slipping through the net” – our benefits system is supposed to BE the net, there for all of us when we are not able to work through illness or disability.
The Minister’s response was nowhere near as strong as it ought to have been. This is why Labour is conducting a review of the entire social security system – a review that is long overdue.