Employment and Support Allowance: Underpayments

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 25th February 2019.

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Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 3:41 pm, 25th February 2019

The hon. Gentleman asked me a range of questions. First, let me say that nobody has dragged me to the House. I regularly update the House; it is a matter of record how often I update the House through a whole series of written statements and by publishing a lot of data. I have made those commitments to the House and I regularly honour those commitments.

In terms of the additional resources, the hon. Gentleman will know that ESA has not been open for applications since the end of last year because people now apply for universal credit, so we now have extremely experienced ESA decision makers who have the time and capacity to support us with this exercise. We had recruited an additional 400 staff before the announcement that I made today.

In terms of the number of people who sadly will have deceased since we recognised this problem and who could have benefited from additional payments, we are very anxious to ensure that we contact people as soon as possible, and if we can find people’s families, we will make those payments to them. Virtually every time I come to the House or Westminster Hall, Members make allegations about the causal link between people being on benefits and them tragically taking their lives. Members need to be very careful when they say those things. As our deputy chief medical officer, Professor Gina Radford, has said, and as the NHS’s survey data show, we cannot make causal links between people being on benefits and them tragically taking their own lives.