Tower Hamlets council has uncovered 539 “administrative mistakes” in universal credit payments to its residents including overpayments, criticising officials from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for their reluctance to act.
The council said the DWP had overlooked incorrect payments despite being made aware of them.
Claimants of 539 universal credit cases were being underpaid by up to £8,000 or overpaid by up to £25,000.
A report from Tower Hamlets council revealed that in 2018-19, £194,000 of payments to claimants were made in error, with an average overpayment of £4,500. Likewise, £150,000 in underpayments were made during the same period, with an average of £104 per claimant.
A DWP spokeswoman responded by saying: “The vast majority of universal credit claims in Tower Hamlets are paid in full and on time, while a DWP specialist works closely with the council to ensure they are fully equipped to support claimants.
“It’s important that people report any changes in their circumstances to ensure they receive the right benefits. People can talk to us about their claim online, over the phone or by coming into the job centre.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “The reality of these errors can be life-changing for those who rely on benefits, whether through underpayments meaning people struggle just to get by, or enormous overpayments which the DWP has to reclaim from the person affected.
“Universal credit is clearly not fit for purpose and it’s falling on our own benefits service to highlight and pursue errors which the DWP shouldn’t be making in the first place.”
In Tower Hamlets the total number of households on Universal Credit as of November 2018 is 11,135. 9,748 of these are in payment.