Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people are struggling to cope with changes to disability benefits, with more than 125,000 people turning to the charity Citizens Advice for help and advice in the past 12 months alone.
New figures published by Citizens Advice reveal that 500 people a day have turned to the charity for help with Personal Independence Payments (PIP) since the start of 2016, up 36% on the previous year.
Around 13% of these are people who are in work, as Citizens Advice warns that many sick and disabled people rely on disability benefits to be able to retain employment.
Since the introduction of PIP in April 2013, over 630,000 vulnerable people have turned to Citizens Advice with enquiries about PIP, and it’s is quickly becoming one of the most common issues people need support with.
Last month, the Public Accounts Committee, a cross-party group of MP’s, warned of “serious failings” with disability benefit assessments and called for a “renewed focus on improving the quality of assessments”.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said “poor performance has had a tangible human impact”, whilst adding that the assessment process is “continuing to create anxiety for claimants” with “too many assessments” failing to meet acceptable performance standards.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Three years after it began, the PIP system is still causing misery for thousands of sick and disabled people.
“PIP can be a lifeline for anyone living with a disability or long-term health condition such as arthritis, because it helps them with the additional costs they face like having someone come in to help with household chores or specialist equipment so they can get around.
“But every day hundreds of people are turning to Citizens Advice for help with the benefit. To get PIP most people have to go for medical assessment, but many feel that their medical doesn’t accurately reflect the day to day challenges they face with their disability or illness.
“And in some cases the appointment is so far away from home that it can be very difficult to get there, particularly if you’re in a wheelchair or on crutches.
“These problems with PIP assessments not only cause people unnecessary stress but can lead to serious money worries and threaten their ability to stay in or return to work.
“It’s good that waiting times for PIP applications and appeals have come down. But the government and companies delivering PIP assessments need to make sure people can actually get to the medical assessments and when they do, that the tests get it right first time.
“This not only reduces people’s worries but also the need for appeals too.”