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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Waiting times for disability benefit claims soar by three weeks in three months

Date: 4/10/2018
Summary: Waiting times for new disability benefit claims have soared by three weeks in just three months, prompting concerns thousands of disabled people are being “let down.”

The government has been urged to carry out a review of the application and assessment process for Personal Independent Payment (PIP) after official figures published on Tuesday showed the average waiting time for new claims is now 14 weeks – a rise of three weeks since April.

 The figures also show that less than half (44 per cent) of new PIP claims are awarded the benefit, with more than 50 per cent refused, which Labour said demonstrated the “failure” of the “callous and inaccurate” assessment system.
 
It comes after The Independent revealed that the private firms carrying out the controversial PIP assessments – Independent Assessment Services (formerly known as Atos) and Capita – had received a £40m increase in funding despite widespread concerns with the system.
 
A total of 3,855,000 people have applied for PIP since the new benefit was rolled out in April 2013. Of those, 62 per cent were new claims and the remaining were from people who had to be reassessed to transfer from the old benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), to PIP.

Clearance times for claimants moving to PIP from DLA have risen to 13 weeks, an increase of one week since April.

Emma Blackmore, who is deafblind and suffers with epilepsy, and had to wait for around eight weeks for her PIP claim to be processed when she had to transfer from DA, told The Independent the waiting time had a damaging impact on her life.

The 30-year-old, from Bristol, submitted her application in early January, and had to wait several weeks before her assessment. She then had to wait for six weeks before the decision was made to grant her a high level of support.

“It’s so stressful. You’re constantly worrying about what’s going to happen. Are they going to stop my money? It’s constant worry. It just goes on and on and on,” she said.

“It reduced me to tears. I struggled to sleep, which affected my everyday life. I was thinking about it all the time. Everything goes through your head. You think, it’s taking so long, there must be something wrong. 

“I’ve had to prove my disability for so much of my life to people in the government, the benefit systems, the job centres. It’s an anxious time for anyone, but with the anxiety I suffer with, and epilepsy on top of that, it’s not great.”

 

Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “These figures show once again that disabled people are bearing the brunt of Tory austerity. To date over a third of PIP claims have been disallowed and the DWP is cutting social security for those who need it most. 

“The alarmingly high rate of awards changed under Mandatory Reconsideration demonstrates the failure of callous and inaccurate PIP assessments.”

Kate Fitch, director of policy and communications at disability charity Sense, said: “PIP is meant to help with some of the extra costs that people living with a long-term health condition or disability experience. However, the latest statistics show that disabled people continue to be let down.  

“These increases [in waiting times] are concerning and we are worried about the impact these delays have on an individual’s life, causing stress and potentially insolation as they will be unable to receive the support they’re entitled to.

 “The people who will be hit the hardest by this will be those with the most complex needs and that is simply not acceptable. We would urge the DWP to review the application and assessment process.”

Ms Fitch added that it was ”vital” that assessors were provided with full and proper training on disabilities so that assessments were a “true reflection” of the impact of living with a disability.

Phillip Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, said: “The idea that people with MS have to wait over three months for a decision to be made on their claim is frightening. But this is far from the only problem with PIP assessments.

“People with MS tell us that moving to PIP is increasingly taking away vital support and having a devastating impact on their health. If you can walk just one step over 20 metres the Government say you don’t need higher level mobility support.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We want disabled people to receive the help they’re entitled to as quickly as possible. We clear 69,000 claims on average each month, and clearance times for new PIP claims have reduced by two weeks since this time last year. We’re currently recruiting more operational staff to ensure claims are dealt with promptly.”

Source: The Independent


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