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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced that millions of people with either disabilities or poor health are owed thousands of pounds in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) due to UK Government underpayments.

From its research – ‘ESA Underpayments: Forecast Numbers Affected, Forecast Expenditure and Progress on Checking’ – DWP expects to repay around £1.7 billion to those who have been affected by ESA underpayments.

Introduced in October 2008, ESA is a way to give people with disabilities or ill health financial support because they have limited or no capability to work. In March 2011, DWP began reassessing people on incapacity benefits for eligibility for the new ESA system.

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However, during the ESA reassessment process, the Government found that some people have been underpaid, which it is now in the process of correcting. Its latest research indicates the likely number of people who have been affected by these underpayments and the expected costs of repaying these cases.

The document estimates that around 180,000 people could be owed arrears payments, with DWP paying out almost £1.7 billion in ESA repayments by 2025.

It also forecasts that affected individuals will be given approximately £5,000 in repayments. However, this number will vary due to individual circumstances.

So far, DWP has reassessed over 60,000 cases, with over 18,000 arrears payments being made to qualifying individuals. The amount of ESA repayments totals to roughly £120 million at an average of £7,000 per person.

The Department stated that it has prioritised reassessing people who are terminally ill according to its data, but will move on to working through cases where individuals are mostly likely to have been underpaid next.

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