Sarah Newton – 2018 Speech on the Employment and Support Allowance

Below is the text of the statement made by Sarah Newton, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work in the House of Commons on 17 October 2018.

This written statement is a further update to the House on progress in correcting historic ESA underpayments and paying arrears.​
The Department began work to assess cases in December 2017. For that stage of the exercise we expect to review around 320,000 cases, of which around 105,000 are likely to be due arrears.

We now have a team of over 400 staff working through these cases and have paid around £120 million in arrears. We expect to complete the vast majority of this part of the exercise by April 2019, and have to date completed all cases where an individual is terminally ill and responded to the review, thereby ensuring they receive due priority.

The announcement in July to pay cases back to the point of conversion requires us to review an additional 250,000 cases, of which we estimate around 75,000 could be due arrears. We will undertake this work through the course of 2019. We now have a team of over 400 staff working through these cases, with a further 400 due to join the team through October and November, and will be assigning more staff to review the additional 250,000 cases. This will enable us to complete this important activity at pace.

The Department is publishing an ad hoc statistical publication today setting out further detail on the progress it has made in processing cases and revised estimates of the impacts of this exercise, including details of the number of claimants due arrears and the amounts likely to be paid. This will be published on

There are currently around 2.3 million working-age people on employment and support allowance. In 2018-19, £54 billion will be been spent on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions this year, which is over 6% of all Government spending and a record high.

A frequently asked question guide will also be will be deposited in the Library of the House for further information.