Tory benefit blunder leaves government with £1bn bill

Conservative ministers have today revealed that the number of people affected by the infamous ESA blunder has more than doubled.

Last year it emerged that some 70,000 people had been underpaid the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for up to 6 years.

But now the Department of Work and Pensions says up to 180,000 claimants were victims of the mistake, leaving arrears of £970 million to be paid out by the government just a day after very costly plans to improve Universal Credit were leaked.

Rob Holland, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium which represents 80 charities and campaign groups, told The Mirror: “It’s welcome that the Government has been able to identify the thousands of sick and disabled people who have missed out.

“Close to half of those living in poverty are disabled or live with a disabled family member and have little in the way of a financial safety net.

“Given this, in addition to making sure disabled people are paid the money owed from this error, the Government must look to the forthcoming Budget to reverse the cuts built into the new Universal Credit as well.

“To not do so risks pushing many disabled people further into poverty.”

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey U-turned on payments following a legal challenge to extend the payment cut off.

McVey initially only planned to refund people for benefits they were denied after 21 October 2014, but now they will have to date payments back to 2011.

The bill has also increased due to extra evidence gathered by a a 400-strong DWP team who are still reviewing 570,000 cases.

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