On 14 December 2017 my predecessor provided a statement to the House on how the Department will be undertaking work to correct underpayments that may have occurred as a result of how a proportion of Incapacity Benefit claims were transitioned to Employment and Support Allowance between 2011 and 2014. I wanted to take this opportunity to update the House on how this work is progressing.
My Department will be reviewing close to 300,000 cases, of which just under a quarter have been underpaid. We have begun contacting individuals and making payments. We are actively recruiting staff and have scaled up the team undertaking the work from 10 to 50 in December last year, which will grow further to 400 from April, allowing us to deal with the situation at pace.
I know many Members will want to provide reassurance to their constituents who think they may have been affected. I can assure the House that my Department will be contacting all those identified as potentially impacted. We have been engaging with external organisations that often provide support and advice to our claimants, so that they too can be confident that we have a robust process in place, and can provide individual advice should they be contacted.
Today I can confirm that, based on departmental analysis, we will be prioritising any individuals whom we know from our systems to be terminally ill. Thereafter we will work through the cases identified as most likely to have been underpaid according to our systems. We have also undertaken an Equality Analysis to support this prioritisation approach.
Once an individual is contacted, and the relevant information gathered, they can expect to receive appropriate payment within 12 weeks. I can also confirm that once contacted, individuals will be provided with a dedicated free phone number on which they can make contact with the Department.
Like my predecessor, I am committed to ensuring that all cases are reviewed and paid by April 2019.