Belfast Telegraph

Lost documents 'delaying benefits'

Lost documents are delaying some benefit payments in Northern Ireland for up to two months, it has been claimed.

Failure of civil servants to follow up claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as well as misplacing papers to support claims are causing weeks of hold up, the Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) added.

One alcoholic and drug addict was sleeping rough in Co Down yet was denied the lifeline help because of the problems, support organisation added.

Citizens Advice information officer Siobhan Harding said: "Some clients have experienced severe financial hardship as a result of delays in getting their ESA payments while other seriously ill people are being found fit for work, causing them stress and anxiety."

The ESA was established in October 2008 to replace Incapacity Benefit for new claimants. It aimed to give more help to those who, with, support might be able to work.

Yet from January to June this year advisors from the CAB dealt with 8,400 ESA issues.

These included delays in getting a medical assessment which left many people on the basic rate of ESA for long periods as well as problems with the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which left some disabled people being found fit for work.

There were particular concerns for those suffering from mental health problems, many of whom were awarded no or few points only to be given the payments after an appeal.

A spokesman for the Department of Social Development said the CAB was overstating the problem with the allowance representing the largest change in social security for a decade.

"ESA was launched at a very challenging time for the Social Security Agency, in the midst of a severe economic downturn."

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