Delays in the processing of claims for Personal Independence Payments have been labelled a ‘fiasco’ by Labour MP Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
The benefit is designed to enable disabled people to live as independently as possible, awarding them funds to pay for help with care and mobility needs.
Many of those who have submitted a claim for the benefit have waited over six months to receive a decision from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). The delays have partly been blamed on the DWP’s underestimation of how many people would be called to medicals, and how long these medicals would take. The DWP estimated that around 75% of claimants would be called for a face-to-face medical assessment, and that these assessments would take 75 minutes. The reality has proved quite different; over 97 percent of claimants have been required to attend a face-to-face assessment with the average assessment lasting 120 minutes.
The Public Accounts Committee has also highlighted the failure of DWP and it’s contractors to provide an acceptable standard of service. Their report states that claimants have experienced difficulties in arranging appointments for medical assessments, endured excessive travel times to attend these assessments and have even been advised on arrival that the assessor has failed to turn up. All of these issues have intensified the delays to the application process.
The first claims for PIP were made in Northern England in 2013. By the time the benefit was introduced nationally in June 2014, only 360 decisions had been made. Many claims are still outstanding.
On 1st July, Ian Duncan Smith announced that by the end of 2014 the waiting time for PIP claims would be reduced to 16 weeks. This is only shaving two months off the six month delay.
As more decisions are being made, it is reasonable to assume that more appeals will be lodged. All appeals against PIP decision will have to go through the DWP’s mandatory reconsideration process. This requires the DWP to review their initial decision, often with more evidence from the claimant being provided.
We are already seeing an increase in the waiting times for a PIP decision to be reconsidered. One wonders whether future claimants will not only face a hefty waiting period pending the outcome of their claim, but also a further lengthy time waiting for the decision to be reconsidered before it can be lodged with the Tribunals Service.
By Michelle Tilley, graduate paralegal, pro bono welfare team
If you have received a decision on your PIP claim and are not happy with it, we may be able to assist you with an appeal. Please contact us on 0333 344 4772.