Paul Lewis asks, is it time to make a claim?

Disabled people underpaid since a benefits switch could claim compensation, says Paul Lewis

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More than 100,000 disabled people have been denied compensation for errors by the Department for Work and Pensions that left them poorer than they should have been for five years.  But there’s a chance to claim it.

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A damning report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman last month ruled that one victim – called Ms U – should be paid £7,500 in compensation for being left in hardship for five years due to the Department’s errors. Ms U was left with barely half the income the law says she needed, which had “a devastating impact on her health, wellbeing, and finances” the Ombudsman said.

The Department paid Ms U her arrears of benefit some time ago: £19,800 represented an under payment of about £80 a week over five years. But it refused her claim for compensation for the hardship caused by the mistakes of its staff.

Since the Ombudsman’s decision in January, though, the DWP says it will now pay Ms U the £7,500 compensation payment recommended by the Ombudsman. But the Government has decided not to accept the Ombudsman’s recommendation to pay compensation to all the other people affected.  To get it they will have to file their own complaint.

People who were underpaid were moved from Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support onto a new benefit
called Employment and Support Allowance from 2012. But officials put them on the wrong rate. The Department says it identified all who lost out, but campaigners are not so sure. Anyone – or their next of kin – who believes they may have been missed by the DWP exercise can ask for a review of their case by calling free on 0800 169 0310.

People wanting to claim compensation for the hardship caused must begin the long process of complaining to the DWP at the address on
the letter about the arrears. If refused, the complaint can go to the Ombudsman but must be supported by a Member of Parliament – it’s
usually best to persuade the local MP to support a claim. Citizens Advice can help you, or try ombudsman.org.uk/making-complaint.

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Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4. To read more of his advice, see radiotimesmoney.com