An MLA has called on the Department of Communities (DfC) to reveal how many people in Northern Ireland have been affected by underpayments of benefits, following a damning report by the National Audit Office.
An investigation found that an estimated 70,000 people across the UK who transferred to employment and support allowance (ESA) over the last seven years have been underpaid.
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon MLA has written to DfC asking for a breakdown of the number of people in Northern Ireland affected by underpayments and details of how and when the department will repay those who have lost out.
“The report determines that the average underpayment was £5,000 and that approximately 20,000 people were left over £11,000 short over the seven years,” the north Belfast MLA said.
“That is incredible. How many people have been forced further into poverty as a result of this error? How much damage has been done to the health of claimants as a result of the intense pressure of struggling to make ends meet?
She added: “The lives of vulnerable claimants are tough enough without being denied this support they need to get by.
“This Tory welfare system has been bedecked with failure after failure, with the Government having to be dragged to correct its errors as a result of High Court Rulings and damning independent.
"This is further proof if needed, that the system is fundamentally flawed and needs completely overhauled.”
The Department of Communities has been approached for comment.