SDLP councillor Brian Heading has secured a commitment from Belfast City Council to request a meeting with Capita after a report found the company had engaged in “systematic maladministration” and rejected legitimate benefit claims.
Councillor Heading said by delaying people access to their benefit payments the company had driven vulnerable people into poverty.
The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) published a shocking report on the company’s administration of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme last week. Earlier this week it emerged the company had also been awarded a contract to run the Troubles’ Victims Payment Scheme by the Department of Justice.
Councillor Heading raised the matter during the full Belfast City Council meeting on Thursday evening. The council has agreed to write to Capita and other relevant authorities to ask them to meet with a council delegation.
“I welcome the move from council to contact Capita so that we can hear first hand their justification for the experiences many of our constituents have suffered. The NIPSO report has detailed how many legitimate benefit claims were turned down by the company, forcing people from some of the North’s most deprived areas into further poverty. All this was funded with taxpayers’ money.
“There seems to be an absence of a plan regarding how to deal with this organisation which is in receipt of millions from Government departments. Capita now has a stigma attached to it, is this really the best way of public money being spent?
“Given the information contained in the NIPSO report, I would be calling on Communities Minister Deidre Hargey and Justice Minister Naomi Long to review these contracts and consider alternative options to Capita and companies like them, so that nobody else has to go through a degrading and humiliating experience simply to access the support they’re entitled to. All applicants should have been treated with dignity and respect. ”