The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is failing to meet it’s own target of ensuring that sick and disabled people don’t have to wait longer than 10 days to receive benefits.
The number of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants left in limbo whilst waiting for ESA payments has soared over the last two years.
Figures obtained by Frank Field MP, who also chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee, reveal that 20% of new claimants have been left waiting longer than 10 days to receive an initial payment. This is compared to just 13% in 2015/16.
The figures also reveal than some ESA claimants are having to wait even longer, with 33,340 forced to wait three weeks or more.
Frank Field told the Independent that the delays were “inflicting misery” on sick and disabled people and are a “recruiting sergeant for food banks and money lenders”.
“What these figures show is that this source of injustice is not just found in universal credit”, he said.
“Delays across the board are inflicting misery on hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of help from the welfare state.”
Rachel Hickman, senior parliamentary and public affairs adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said the delays were ‘wreaking havok’ on the lives of sick and disabled people.
“Vital payments are delayed, and a huge amount of stress is piled on top of handling their often already difficult living situations”, she added.
“We hope this confirmation of the staggering scale of the failure will provide further incentive for the government urgently to work with us to improve the system and, by extension, the lives of thousands of vulnerable people.
“The government has sat on its hands for too long – the time to act is now.”
Minesh Patel, policy and campaigns manager at disability charity Scope, added: “It’s imperative that the government acts to ensure our welfare system works for disabled people.
“This needs to begin with reducing waiting times and overhauling the work capability assessment so it accurately identifies the barriers to work that disabled people face.”