The waiting time for a vital disability benefit has risen hugely in 6 months
Summary: People are waiting around three months from first registering to find out if they have been given Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
The waiting time for vital disability benefit test results has practically doubled in just six months, new figures show today.
People waited an average of nine weeks after being referred for a test to find out if they had been given Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in April 2017.
It means claimants are being left in limbo for months while suffering from serious conditions including multiple sclerosis, cancer, dementia, anxiety and depression.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) admitted the so-called clearance times had "slowly increased" over six months.
Overall the entire start-to-finish wait, from first registering for PIP to a DWP decision, is also up but less dramatically.
It has risen from 10 weeks to 13 weeks for new claims since October. For those moving from the old benefit Disability Living Allowance, it is up from 10 to 14 weeks.
The waiting times are still nowhere near their peak in summer 2014 - when they reached an average of 42 weeks for new claims.
Meanwhile today's figures showed thousands of people are being rejected for PIP - even many who were moving from old benefit Disability Living Allowance.
And there is still a gulf between people's chances of winning an appeal within the DWP compared to an independent tribunal.
Everyone rejected for PIP has to lodge an internal appeal within the DWP first - and more than 558,000 have done so since the benefit launched in 2013.
But fewer than a fifth of these succeed, compared to 62% of people who then fight on to a full tribunal.
Critic Neil Coyle, a Labour MP, claims the DWP's internal reviews are a "complete fraud" designed to put people off.
James Taylor, policy chief at disability charity Scope, said of today's figures: “The system isn’t working and a complete overhaul is needed
“PIP is a lifeline for many disabled people to meet the extra costs of their impairment or condition - our research shows this adds up to £550 a month.
“The assessment process needs to work much better for disabled people."
A DWP spokesman said: "We are committed to processing PIP claims as quickly as possible, while ensuring we have all the evidence we need to make the right decisions. Around 78,000 claims are processed each month."
Former Treasury minister David Gauke was appointed the latest Tory Work and Pensions Secretary this week - the third since Iain Duncan Smith quit in protest at planned PIP cuts that were later stopped.
Source: The Mirror
Other recent news items: