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18.03.14

Disability benefits waiting time ‘unacceptable’ – WPC

The length of time disabled people have to wait to find out if they are eligible for benefit is ‘unacceptable’, according to a report published by the Work and Pensions Committee (WPC).

The majority of people applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) undergo a face-to-face assessment to determine eligibility, which is carried out by private contractors.  But some claims are taking six months or more to process.

WPC’s report calls for urgent action to improve the current unacceptable service provided to PIP claimants.  It recommends that penalty clauses in the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) contracts with the assessment providers, Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services, be invoked where necessary; DWP clear the existing backlog of PIP claims before reassessment of existing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants is extended; and that all necessary resources be devoted to meeting a sevenday target for processing PIP claims from terminally ill people.

PIP, which was the government’sreplacement for DLA as the benefit to help towards the extra costs of disability for people of working age, came into force in April 2013.

Dame Anne Begg MP, committee chair, said: “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 far longer than was anticipated. This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty.  It is completely unacceptable. Basic failures – from appointments being cancelled without notice to unsatisfactory responses to queries about claims – are happening too often.”

It was revealed that by the end of last year decisions had been made in fewer than 20% of new claims submitted since April 2013. Therefore, according to the WPC research, it is essential that the backlog is cleared before the limited natural reassessment of existing DLA claims is extended any further.

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