Published: Wednesday, 24th October 2018
Disabled and ill residents are celebrating after each receiving up to £20,000 in benefits arrears - thanks to a successful campaign instigated by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
The borough's residents are among up to 70,000 people across the country who were underpaid when they were moved from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The Council's Welfare Rights Service put forward a test case to challenge a Government decision that backdated arrears should be restricted.
Test case challenged Government decision
Residents' hardship will be lessened following legal action by the Child Poverty Action Group, based on the Royal Borough's test case, which challenged the DWP's original decision to limit backdating to 2014. This was the date of a tribunal which ruled that claimants had lost out financially as a result of DWP errors when they were transferred to ESA.
The Welfare Rights Service, which offers advice on tax credits and benefits, had been working with many residents claiming ESA and felt that the limiting was unlawful. It brought the case of one of its residents to the attention of the Child Poverty Action Group, who lodged a Judicial Review. The Government has now done a U-turn and will backdate payments to 2011.
'Helping ensure those in need do not lose out'
Cllr Christine Grice, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said: "This is wonderful news for those who have suffered extreme hardship because of the DWP's errors and its decision to compound them. The work of our Welfare Rights Service is crucial to helping ensure that those in need do not lose out and are able to have a good standard of living."
Last Wednesday, the Government was heavily criticised in a report by the Public Accounts Committee of cross-party MPs that concluded the DWP's lack of urgency in taking six years to start to address the error indicated a culture of indifference towards people being underpaid.
As well as losing out on thousands of pounds through underpayments, the DWP's failure to check claimants' entitlements meant some were also denied help with dentistry costs, free school meals and free medical prescriptions.
This is the latest in a series of national successes that Welfare Rights Service has been instrumental in achieving, including backdating of disabled child elements in tax credits and securing appeal rights for people denied mandatory reconsiderations.