Errors see benefit overpayments double
Overpayment of benefits has doubled to £800 million in the past decade, MPs have discovered.
In a report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Decision Making and Appeals in the Benefits System, the MPs found overpayments due to error had soared from £400 million in 2000, while overpayments due to fraud and mistakes by claimants dropped. The committee said that this was ‘far too high’, and called on the government to explain why the number of mistakes has risen since 2000/01.
The report also calls on the government to simplify the benefits system, saying it is currently too complex for both staff and claimants to successfully negotiate.
It says: ‘We reiterate a previous recommendation of this committee, that the government should establish a welfare commission to examine the existing benefits system and model possible alternative structures with the aim of creating a fair but simpler system that claimants and their representatives are able to understand more easily and DWP staff are able to administer more accurately.’
The committee’s chairman, Terry Rooney, said: ‘Poor decision making not only costs the department in wasted overpayments, and costs claimants in underpayments, but also generates more costs further down the line in reconsiderations and appeals.’
The Child Poverty Action Group said the department should focus its energies on getting decisions right. ‘The Work and Pensions Select Committee highlights the desperate need for fairer and faster decision making to improve benefit delivery and take up,’ it stated.
‘Millions of households are missing out on vital benefits at the same time as substantial cuts to welfare provision are being made.’