MPs call personal independence payment implementation a “fiasco”

Public accounts committee says payment delays are forcing some disabled people to turn to food banks and charities for help

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Photo: Francis Dean/Rex Features

The implementation of a new benefit for people with disabilities has been described as a “fiasco” by MPs.
The public accounts committee said some disabled people had waited up to six months for their personal independence payment (PIP) claim to be decided. PIP is the replacement benefit for disability living allowance for people of working-age and was introduced nationally from June 2013 for new claimants.
Some were forced to turn to food banks and charities for help to meet the extra cost of living with their disability, the MPs said.
In a report published on Friday, the committee said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had not piloted the new system but instead carried out a staged roll out. “The department’s failure to pilot the scheme meant that the most basic assumptions, such as how long assessments would take and how many would require face-to-face consultations, had not been fully tested and proved to be wrong,” the paper said.
The committee said this resulted in delays and a backlog of claims, so that by October 2013 terminally-ill people waited an average of 28 days for a decision on their claim and non-terminally ill people waited 107 days.
The committee’s chair, the Labour MP Margaret Hodge, said: “The personal stories we heard were shocking. We heard evidence of a claimant requiring hospital intervention as a result of the stress caused by the delays suffered, and another claimant who was unable to afford the specific diet required for diabetes and gastric problems while waiting for a decision.”.
Claimants waiting for a decision and their families may not be able to claim linked benefits such as carer’s allowance, although the DWP said these benefits and PIP payments would be backdated to the start of a PIP payment if the benefit criteria were met.
The committee also criticised the department for not taking into account the performance of PIP assessment contractor Atos Healthcare on work capability assessments for the employment and support allowance, which culminated in the DWP announcing that the company’s contract would be terminated early.

Row over Atos contract bid

The committee also said that in its bid, Atos had said it would sub-contract with hospitals and physiotherapy practices and said organisations had “contractually agreed” to provide accommodation. The committee said the company admitted to it in evidence that it did not have binding contracts at the time of the bid. But it denied the committee’s allegations that it had misinformed DWP.
In a statement, Atos Healthcare said: “The department made clear that they were not misinformed during the tender process, that at the point of go live they knew our capacity, our partners and the number of centres we would be using. We completely refute any allegation of misinformation during the procurement process for personal independence payment. Not only have we written to the committee to clarify our position but we invited the National Audit Office in to scrutinise our documentation.
“That we could not have binding contracts in place before we signed a contract with the DWP is simply common sense and in no way misleading. What we did have were detailed written proposals from the suppliers.”
Minister of state for disabled people Mike Penning said: “The PAC report is based on old statistics. I have introduced a faster process for people with terminal illnesses, with clearance times reducing to our target of ten days. And a higher proportion of people are getting the highest rate of financial support for daily living under PIP than under DLA.
The government introduced personal independence payments in April 2013 to replace DLA for people of working-age; like its predecessor benefit, it is designed to helpspeople meet the extra cost of living resulting from their disability. The DWP started taking new claims for PIP in parts of northern England from April 2013 and nationally from June 2013, but had to delay the reassessment of DLA claimants for the new benefit, which began in October 2013, after delays and backlogs developed.

 

Meanwhile the Department for Work and Pensions said it would keep the controversial 20 metre limit in the mobility assessment for personal independence payments, despite overwhelming opposition.
The department held a consultation on whether to continue restricting the enhanced payments for the mobility component of PIP to people who cannot walk more than 20 metres.
Out of 1142 respondents, 914 wanted to change the 20 metre criterion, just five wanted to retain it and two liked the idea of more objective criteria but did not give a preference on the distance.
The latest government figures for employment and support allowance claims show a rise in the proportion of people entitled to benefit and in those in the support group whose condition is deemed so severe that they do not have to make themselves available for work-related activities. There was a corresponding fall in the proportion of people deemed fit to work. The government said some of the change could be down to the exclusion of “in progress” cases from the figures.

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3 Responses to MPs call personal independence payment implementation a “fiasco”

  1. Ellen MCCaffrey June 23, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    My mother who is both physically and mentally disabled made a claim for ESA and Personal Independence payment in September 2013. She had a home assessment on 19th of May 2014 but only because of repeated calls by me to get the assessment done. I telephoned the DWP on the 6th June to ask if they had received the report from Capita, and was told yes on the 3rd of June and that she would definitely have a letter of their decision by 23 rd of June. The day arrived and still no decision, so I again telephoned their office this morning only to be told that no decision has been made and that her claim is still with the decision makers and it will be at least another two weeks before she hears anything from them. This system is so wrong, thousands of sick and disabled people are suffering needlessly because of long delays and mishandling of claims. They are under enough stress having to cope with their illness without the added pressure of waiting for a decision. Many including my mother are falling into poverty through no fault of their own, unable to met their bills or in some cases even afford food and essential items. I don’t hold out any hope that my mother will receive her decision in the two weeks as stated by the DWP today. It’s like fighting a loosing battle. If my mother never had the support of her family, she would have given up by now. Something needs to be done to change the way these claims are dealt with. It’s bad enough having to wait months for the assessment without further long waits for the DWP decision. The sick and disabled are suffering, and no one seems to care.

  2. Jayne June 23, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    I applied for pip on the 6th December 2013, I received a letter stating I needed to have a consultation which was 24th April 2014. I waited in for them but after 20 mins nobody showed I rang them only to be told it was cancelled without any notification and I was given another appointment for the 13th may 2014, I decided to make a complaint as prior to the first appointment I had received 2 letters and a text message reminding me of the date and time of the appointment and each one also clearly said that if I failed to attend and gave no reason then my claim would be sent back DWP.
    I then received a phone call a few days later about my complaint and was told this would take about 20 days to investigate………then on the 9th may I received a phone call saying my appointed was cancelled and was not told why and was also told that there was no available appointments and I would be contacted when there was…….I made a 2nd complaint which was added to the first.
    I received a letter re the complaints basically just saying sorry and I would get the next available appointment sent out to me which I got last week but only because I had phoned, so my new appointment is 25th June……..will it be 3rd time lucky…..

  3. joseph mcghee July 3, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    This utter fiasco is causing havoc , and is causing misery to thousands of people.this government does not care.so at the next election don’t vote for tory or lib dems.because they don’t care about how much misery they create.you are entitled to a vote so don’t vote for them.also complain as much as possible to your local mp to do something about it.they must help you .just keep complaining you want something done.and remember don’t vote conservative or lib dem at gen election 2015