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DWP’s handling of PIPs causing ‘distress and financial difficulties’

The National Audit Office has criticised the government’s handling of the introduction of Personal Independence Paymentto replace Disability Living Allowance for working age people.

Its new report says backlogs in assessment are leading to “delays and uncertainty for claimants”, partly because the DWP did not test whether it could handle large volumes of clims.

The NAO says: “Claimants are experiencing long delays to benefit decisions, and the Department is not able to tell them how long they are likely to wait, potentially creating distress and financial difficulties. By October 2013, there were 92,000 people whose claims were outstanding with assessment providers – Atos Healthcare and Capita Health and Wellbeing – almost three times the number expected by the Department at this stage.”

Elements of the roll-out were postponed in October.

The DWP will not achieve the savings it originally expected by April 2015, falling from £780m to £640m. But it still expects to achieve long term savings of £3bn annually by 2018-19.

The NAO says the DWP has now “learnt from past experience in the way it manages contracted assessment providers”.

Personal Independence Payment is a non-means-tested benefit to support disabled people with their daily living and mobility costs. It replaces for working age people and aims to match support more closely to claimants’ needs. By 25 October 2013, 166,000 people had started new claims for Personal Independence Payment.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:“It is too early to conclude on the Personal Independence Payment programme’s overall success and all major programmes run the risk of early operational problems. However the Department did not allow enough time to test whether the assessment process could handle large numbers of claims.

“As a result of this poor early operational performance, claimants face long and uncertain delays and the Department has had to delay the wider roll-out of the programme. Because it may take some time to resolve the delays, the Department has increased the risk that the programme will not deliver value for money in the longer term.”

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