MPs blast long delays for processing of new disability benefit claims

Disabled and terminally ill people face "unacceptable" waits for assessments of Personal Independence Payment claims

Photo: EM Welch/Rex Features

Disabled and terminal ill people are facing unacceptable waits as they are moved from disability living allowance to personal independence payment, say MPs.

A report by Parliament’s work and pensions select committee found that some people are waiting as long as six months for decisions on whether they are eligible for personal independence payment (PIP). As a result MPs on the committee have called on the government to take urgent action to clear the backlog and to halt the rollout of PIP until that has happened.

“Many disabled or sick people face waits of six months or more for a decision on their PIP eligibility. Even those with terminal illnesses are having to wait longer than was anticipated,” said committee chair and Labour MP Anne Begg.

“This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty. It is completely unacceptable.

“It is essential that the backlog is cleared before the limited natural reassessment of existing disability living allowance claims is extended any further.”

The committee said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should act to reduce the average time taken to process claims to 74 days before PIP is extended to new areas of the UK. It also said claims by the terminal ill need to be expedited with the aim of processing all claims in seven days.

The DWP should also invoke penalty clauses in the contracts of assessment providers Capita and Atos Healthcare, if this is necessary to accelerate the processing of PIP claims.

The committee’s report also urged the government to provide sufficient funding for local welfare assistance, which replaced the discretionary Social Fund and passed responsibility for emergency hardship support to local authorities and devolved administrations.

It said that while the DWP is funding this until April 2015 it is unclear whether local authorities will have to meet the cost of this from their overall grant settlements after that date.

The DWP, the committee said, must either continue to provide sufficient funding after April 2015 or increase the money provided to local authorities to meet the full cost of providing local welfare assistance.

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