According to a new research by Citizens Advice, millions of disabled individuals are forced to wait for crucial help due to delays in benefit application processing.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which may provide up to £157 per week to those with a sickness, disability, or mental health condition, is a lifeline for millions of people.
However, the waiting list for an evaluation has ballooned to a staggering 327,000 persons, with an average wait time of 5 months. Citizens Advice estimates that £294 million in payments will be delayed as a result.
Waiting for this payment has a significant influence on individuals. Delays in assessments result in delays of help, causing individuals to make hard decisions in order to make ends meet.
One in five persons sent to a food bank by Citizens Advice in the past three months also have a problem with PIP.
Furthermore, many of those awaiting a decision are entitled for the £150 disability benefits cost-of-living assistance payment, but they are unlikely to get it before October’s massive energy price increase.
Citizens Advice receives more requests for assistance with PIP than any other issue – 41 percent more than the next largest issue.
Every hour, about 150 individuals contact advisers for one-on-one assistance, and its webpage on “How the DWP makes a decsion on PIP claims” saw 27,700 page views last month, a 56 percent increase on last year.
Kate (not her real name) is in her 20s and unable to work due to an injury which resulted in a stomach prolapse. She previously received PIP and had to reapply, so turned to Citizens Advice for support.
“Six months on I’ve still not heard anything”, she said. “I only have £400 of Universal Credit to live off a month and some of that I’m using to pay off rent arrears.
“When I was receiving PIP, I could afford to get a taxi to go and get food shopping. My condition means I can’t really take public transport as I can’t wait around for long periods and I can’t carry much – even walking or sitting down hurts.
“So now I’m having to force myself to get food if I feel able to do it that day. But then I’m really ill afterwards.
“Sometimes I’m not well enough to go and get food so I just don’t eat. Then I get dizzy and often faint. Not having PIP is forcing me to push myself to do things that I know I shouldn’t be doing and it’s seriously affecting my health.
“I used to have money to pay people to help with doing some jobs around the house or do a few bits to help me – sometimes I’d rely on friends to help me get dressed. I can’t afford a taxi to go out and see my friends so I’m isolated.
“On top of that the cost of my food and electricity has gone up, my electricity has doubled in price and food is so expensive.
“PIP was a lifeline for me and I just can’t believe 6 months on I’ve not heard anything. I rely on a lot of support and without the money I can’t get that extra help which would make my life easier.”
The charity is calling for an emergency plan from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to urgently address this backlog, including a reduction in the number of claimants required to undergo a medical assessment – the primary cause of these delays – and an extension of the award period to reduce the frequency with which people must reapply.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government did the right thing by targeting more financial support towards those who need it most. But there are still things they could be doing to get money in the pockets of people who desperately need it in the cost-of-living crisis.
“Getting a grip on the PIP assessment backlog needs to be a priority for the government. Delays in getting money to people who’re entitled to it can wreck lives.
“With costs rising all the time, people need this regular support now, not a backdated payment months or years in the future.“