Belfast Telegraph

Mallon blasts £24m NI benefits shortfall

By Gareth Cross

Almost 8,000 benefits claimants in Northern Ireland could have lost around £3,000 each due to administrative errors, it has emerged.

The figures - which relate to those claiming Employment and Support Allowance - were obtained by SDLP MLA Nichola Mallon.

The north Belfast politician contacted the Department for Communities after the Audit Office in England found up to 70,000 claimants for ESA there had been underpaid due to administrative errors.

The department confirmed around 8,000 claimants here were likely to have been affected, with average arrears estimated to be around £3,000 per claimant.

Ms Mallon said the figures were "scandalous".

"The fact that some 8,000 ESA claimants here have been underpaid an average of £3,000 each as a result of another benefit blunder is scandalous," she said.

"The fact that this shocking information has only come to light after the SDLP pursued the matter is also concerning.

"There is no question that this error has forced people further into poverty. The Department for Communities must set out clearly how and when those affected will be paid what they are owed.

"The lives of vulnerable claimants are tough enough without being denied the support they are entitled to for seven years."

The Department for Communities said: "The department has established that just over 8,000 Northern Ireland claimants may be affected.

"All claimants who are impacted will be contacted directly. In line with the DWP approach, we will aim to complete a review of all affected cases by April 2019."

Belfast Telegraph

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