The new Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper MP, has admitted that severe delays in processing claims for the new disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are “unacceptable”.
PIP is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people who struggle to maintain a reasonable level of independent living, due to their physical and/or mental problems.
Figures released yesterday by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that of the 529,400 registered claims for PIP between April 2013 and July 2014, only 206,000 had been fully processed – resulting in either an award, dismissal or the claim being withdrawn.
DWP figures show that 72% of claimants moved from DLA to PIP received an award at either higher or lower rates within the two components of the new disability benefit. This figure drops to 51% for new claims.
PIP consists of two components – Daily Living and Mobility – with each component including a standard or enhanced rate. The most anyone can currently receive is £138.05 a week.
Mark Harper said: “Unlike the old system, PIP includes a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most. Today’s figures show just that, with nearly 23% of people getting the highest level of support, compared with 16% under Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
“We accept that the delays faced by some people are unacceptable, and we are committed to putting that right. Between May and July we have doubled the number of claims processed and we are working hard to continue to make further improvements.
“By the end of the year we expect that no-one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 16 weeks.”
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, urged the government to do “everything in its power” to resolve “extreme delays”, which are causing severe distress and financial hardship for thousands of disabled people.
He added: “Scope’s helpline has been inundated with disabled people phoning for advice on their PIP claims. Many are facing extreme delays of well over six months.
“Life costs more if you are disabled. Buying a wheelchair, higher energy bills – Scope research shows all this adds up to an extra £550 per month. Some costs can’t be avoided, but too often disabled people continue to pay over the odds for everyday items and services.
“PIP is the financial lifeline that disabled people rely on to help meet these costs.
“It was reassuring to hear the minister for disabled people state last week that resolving the ongoing issues with PIP is his top priority.”
Find out more – The Guardian