DWP data analysis scheme repaying more than £20m a month in pension arrears

Statistics show acceleration in repayments – but £750m of underpayments are still to be addressed

Data analysis efforts by the Department for Work and Pensions have helped the organisation accelerate its payment of state-pension arrears to more than £20m a month, according to newly released statistics.

Over a period of 35 years – from 1985 up to 2020 – the department is estimated to have underpaid about 134,000 pensioners by a cumulative total of £1.05bn. The fiasco has been attributed to a reliance on ageing IT systems, compounded by human errors.

To rectify the situation and enable money to be paid to those affected the State Pension Legal Entitlement and Administrative Practices (LEAP) programme – a process of data analysis, supported by individual casework checks – began in January 2021.

As of 31 October 2022, this had resulted in repayments totalling £209.3m.

By the end of February, this figure had shot up to £300.1m – equating to a rise of £90.8m in the preceding four months, and accounting for 30% of all repayments to date.

The DWP statistical release said: “Progress on LEAP exercise is based on DWP management information supplied through: individually reviewed cases to find customers that have been underpaid and the amount they are owed, and to learn why they have been underpaid; the department’s computer system that holds alive and deceased state pension cases.

It added: “DWP analysts have engaged with operational staff to ensure the quality of the data is fit-for-purpose and have analysed data to help understand the customers most likely to have been underpaid, whilst offering a robust sense check of values against other outputs for comparable periods.”

As of the end of last month, officials had reviewed 173,538 cases, resulting in 46,716 historic state pension underpayments being identified. This equates to an average repayment of £6,424 per person.

Based on an investigation from the National Audit Office, the LEAP programme has an estimated 87,000 cases of underpayment – representing a collective £750m in arrears – that are yet to be identified.

Sam Trendall

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