180,000 underpaid Employment & Support Allowance

DWP has confirmed that up to 180,000 benefit claimants have been underpaid and are due refunds. It is estimated that the average refund will be £5,000 but may be more for some individuals.

The DWP said that the backdated payments totalled £970m. It now also faced a larger bill for ongoing ESA awards, costing the department more than £700m extra until 2024-25, bringing the total cost to £1.67bn.

Frank Field, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said:

"It is welcome news that the government is finally making progress towards repaying people who have missed out on ESA. 

"Its best estimate is that it owes claimants £970m - but the final bill could be even higher. The government must learn lessons from this appalling failure, as it faces the much bigger challenge of moving people onto Universal Credit."

Most underpayments occurred between 2011 and 2014and affects those who were not considered for income-related ESA when they were switched to contributory ESA. These people may have missed out on other payments, such as the enhanced disability premium. Anyone affected will be contacted by the DWP and all backdated payments should be made by the end of 2019.