Several legal challenges at tribunal and then High Court have forced the government to repay around £1.67bn in benefits to an estimated 180,000 low-income sick and disabled people, which they were wrongly denied since 2011.
Well done to Ms H, a woman who was wrongly found fit for work, one of those who went to tribunal. She challenged being cut off, and later won enhanced disability premium as well as her contributions-based ESA back. Apparently, by their wrongful work capability assessment of Ms H, Atos (who had the ESA contract in 2011), played a part in getting the underpayment looked at by tribunal.
Underpayments were implemented when people on incapacity benefits were being transferred to ESA. The DWP did not assess their entitlement to income-based ESA with its severe disability premiums, which can be paid on top of contributions-based ESA. In the changeover, some people only got 10p a week more:
Included in this group is people who were severely disabled when young. Labour had made provision for them to go onto contributions-based Incapacity Benefit as adults, to enable them to be financially independent from family. Contributions-based ESA is not means-tested and is not affected by the wages or other income of family members or partners in the same household. The young people’s provision was abolished in the Welfare Reform Act 2012, part of preparation for Universal Credit (which also abolishes the severe disability premiums and cuts the disability element and disabled child elements).
The government tried to avoid full payment, saying they should only backdate to 2014, the date of a tribunal decision against them, not 2011. Greenwich Council welfare rights team brought cases to the Child Poverty Action Group who took the issue to judicial review and won. Read more here.
People who have been missing out on these disability premiums for years, are owed thousands of pounds in back payments, as well as extra money each week in future. The families of people who have died are also eligible. But the government has avoided commenting on interest or compensation. Here is the Government statement
The DWP sent people a form called ESA3 IBR (financial check form) which asks about your means and savings for the past 6 years. These forms could take three months or more to get processed.
If you have not received this form and want to check your entitlement, get advice from a reliable welfare rights service or disability organisation, or go via your MP caseworker so you can ask them for back-up.