Disabled man receives $170,000 in extra payments after mix-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2006, 12:00am

A disabled man received about $170,000 in extra welfare money over the past 12 years because of a 30-year-old mix-up, the Social Welfare Department said yesterday.

Officers found out during routine checks at the end of last year that the man, who had lived in a hospital for years, had been recognised as two different people in the department's system.

It happened because he used two different identity documents, on which his name was spelled differently, when he made his original applications for the dole and a disability allowance.

For the unemployment allowance, he used his identity card, but for the disability claim he used a certificate of exemption, a paper issued to people who have lost their ID cards.

'The spelling of his name in the two documents was different, so that we thought that the applications belonged to two different persons,' a department spokeswoman said.

For the first 18 years, the man did not receive any extra money because the dole and disability payments were made separately and he was entitled to both.

But 12 years ago, the Social Welfare Department changed its system and started paying the dole and disability allowance as one sum.

Officers who interviewed the man in connection with his unemployment allowance recognised him as disabled and granted him that allowance as well.

The spokeswoman said the original error had occurred because 30 years ago, cross-checking of immigration department documents was less thorough than it is today.

'We contacted the man immediately and he agreed to repay the extra money,' she said. She did not say how much per month the man would pay but stressed that it would not affect his livelihood.