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Single mother missed out on £10,000 in child benefits due to DWP failings

Government missed ‘vital opportunities’ to ensure arrears were paid to woman left out of pocket for years, says parliamentary ombudsman, amid warnings current complaints system is outdated

The DWP missed ‘vital opportunities’ to ensure that arrears totalling £10,018.27 were paid to a woman who was out of pocket of Child Maintenance for years, according to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman ( Getty )

A single mother missed out on £10,000 in child benefits as a result of government failings, a watchdog investigation has found.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) missed “vital opportunities” to ensure that arrears totalling £10,018.27 were paid to a woman who was underpaid child maintenance for years, according to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The woman, known only as Ms W, from London, was forced to give up her job in the legal sector after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and chronic pain condition in 2002.

Her child’s father, who owed thousands in unpaid child maintenance by this point, then went on to sell a property he owned in 2003.

The ombudsman said the Child Support Agency (CSA) – a branch of the DWP – failed to fulfil its duty to prevent the father from selling the property, and therefore did not retrieve the money that Ms W and her child should have received.

support arrears – yet the mistakes made by the CSA meant that she and her child were left with nothing.

The ombudsman found that not only did Ms W suffer significant financial loss because of these failings, the stress caused by the experience also had a negative impact on her health and wellbeing, creating “distress, inconvenience and frustration”.

Following the investigation, the CSA was forced to apologise to the woman and pay her £10,018.27 in compensation for the child support she would have received but for the failings, plus interest; as well as £2,000 for the suffering caused to the woman due to its handling of the complaint.

The case was revealed as part of the watchdog’s first annual Ombudsman’s Casework Report​, which called for the legislation around complaints by individuals about the government and its agencies to be “changed swiftly” – describing it as “outdated”.


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