Personal Independence Payments 'fiasco'
20th June 2014 -- Changes to benefits for disabled people and those with health conditions "has been nothing short of a fiasco" according to the Commons spending watchdog.
The Public Accounts Committee says problems with Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) resulted in significant delays, a backlog of claims and unnecessary distress for claimants who have been unable to access the support they need to live or work, independently.
PIPs were introduced in April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Earlier this week, Macmillan Cancer Support released separate figures suggesting that around 29% of cancer patients have waited 6 months or more after claiming to find out whether they will even be awarded their PIP disability benefit.
Ministers insist the new PIP system ensures support goes to those who need it most, but one disability charity has described the delays as ‘unacceptable’.
By October 2013, only 16% of the decisions expected to have made by that time had been completed.
In a statement, the chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, Margaret Hodge, says: "The Department of Work and Pensions has let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom have had to wait more than 6 months for their claims to be decided."
The Committee says there was a failure to pilot the scheme and get accurate estimates of how long assessments would take, and how many would require face-to-face consultations.
It says the resulting backlog of claims has caused unnecessary distress.
The Committee heard personal stories described as "shocking", including one claimant needing hospital treatment because of the stress caused by delays. Another claimant was unable to afford a specific diet required for diabetes and gastric problems while waiting for their benefits decision.
There was criticism of the companies hired by the Department of Work and Pensions to carry out the assessments, including the last minute cancellation of home visits and the failure of assessors to turn up when claimants had travelled – some for more than an hour – to assessment centres.
The Committee says that in future, the Department of Work and Pensions should ensure that new systems and policies are fully tested before they are implemented nationally.
The Department is being told to speed up all stages of the process to ensure benefit decisions are made on a timely basis and that the backlog of cases is tackled.
Reacting to the report in a statement, the minister for disabled people, Mike Penning says: "The old DLA system was extremely outdated, with the majority of claimants getting the benefit for life without systematic checks on their condition.
"New PIP includes a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most.