Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Dead people paid 57m in benefits

Statistics information on death will be updated daily

More than 57m in benefits were paid to dead people last year, government figures have shown.

The junior work and pensions minister James Plaskitt said 98% of overpayments happened when death occurred too late to stop an automated payment.

The most overpayments - 34.4m - were made for pensions, with 13.3m paid in income support.

The Tory work and pensions spokesman Philip Hammond said it was "more evidence of chaos" at the department.

Mr Plaskitt, in a written Commons answer to Mr Hammond, said the 2005-06 payments did not include housing benefit or council tax benefit.

He said overpayments were also made "when a claimant dies and it becomes apparent from probate records that the information provided in the original claim was inaccurate."

It is obscene that this government can pay out 57m to the deceased when so many vulnerable families and pensioners are experiencing real hardship
Philip Hammond
Conservative spokesman

The 57m included 8.1m paid out in pension credit, 0.1m in jobseeker's allowance and 1.6m in incapacity benefit.

The year's total represented 0.075% of total benefit expenditure.

Mr Plaskitt said efforts were being made to reduce the amount being paid to dead people, using daily updates from the Office of National Statistics instead of weekly updates.

"This will assist in enabling a prompt cessation of payment following death."

Grieving families

Mr Hammond said the overpayments indicated more "mismanagement" at the Department of Work and Pensions.

"It is obscene that this government can pay out 57m to the deceased when so many vulnerable families and pensioners are experiencing real hardship."

But Labour MP Anne Begg told the BBC: "Although the figures sound very large, it is 0.075% of the benefits budget, it's actually very small.

"And I don't think the Tories are saying that we should actually start clawing it back from grieving families because, very often, it does take two or three days for the families to get the forms filled in to notify the department that one of their loved ones has died."

Details about the overpayments to dead people come after the department revealed that 2.6bn was overpaid in benefits during the same year due to fraud and error.

Benefit claimants overpaid 2.6bn
01 Feb 07 |  Business
Tax credits still being overpaid
25 Apr 06 |  Business

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