Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Blunder as pensioners get wrong payments

A major computer blunder has led to 150,000 older people across Northern Ireland getting the wrong pension payments this week, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The blunder this week saw pensioners receiving double the correct amount when the money was paid into their bank account on Monday.

Those who were overpaid will now not receive any money next Monday, so will have to budget for two weeks instead of the usual one.

The Department for Social Development said it regretted any inconvenience caused by the error on a computer in England.

Around 9,000 incapacity benefit claimants were also given double their weekly entitlements.

Both will forego their routine payment next week to make up for this week’s surplus.

A letter has been sent to them explaining the changes and arrangements for May 4, a bank holiday.

A spokesman for the Department for Social Development, which administers pensions and benefits, said: “An IT problem last Friday in Great Britain has resulted in advance payments being issued to a number of Northern Ireland pensions and incapacity benefit customers on Monday.

“The Social Security Agency has taken immediate steps, working closely with the Post Office, to minimise the impact for customers.

“We have written to customers to explain the situation and to advise them of timing changes to their weekly payment arrangements over the next few weeks. No customers will be disadvantaged.

“We regret any inconvenience caused. Minister Margaret Ritchie has asked the agency to seek urgent assurances that there will be no repeat of this incident.”

One pensioner, who contacted the Belfast Telegraph said: “Every time they make a mistake it is blamed on the computer. However, years ago they made us change to this method of payment because they said it would be simpler and easier for us.

“I know it is the same amount of money but I now have to make it stretch for two weeks. It is a hassle I could have done without and I am sure there are many other people who feel the same.”

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said the hitch was “an absolute blunder”.

“I know that human errors can happen but it’s difficult to comprehend a mistake of this magnitude.

“Many older people have been left totally confused and distressed by this error.

“The system needs to be looked at urgently and I am calling for an immediate investigation into how this happened.”

Claimants and pensioners in the rest of the UK are not thought to have been affected.

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