The introduction last year of personal independence payment (PIP) – which is replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA) – has seen huge delays and backlogs.
Only last week, new DWP figures showed that of 349,000 new PIP claims lodged since its introduction in April 2013, only 84,000 decisions had been made by the end of its first year.
Disability News Service (DNS) has reported cases of disabled people who have had to wait as long as nine months, and even a man who had to wait more than a year to hear whether he would receive PIP.
But a new document published by the government, and detailing exceptions to the coalition’s austerity rule that it should not employ consultants, shows DWP secured permission on 28 March this year to spend £170,000 on “additional strategic support for the PIP Implementation Programme”.
A DWP spokesman denied that this showed how badly the programme had been implemented.
He said the consultants had been providing “additional support as we continue to work to improve process and the claimant experience in PIP”.
He added: “We constantly monitor and review their performance. Their contract is due to end at the end of June.”
He said: “PIP is a completely new benefit with a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most.
“In some cases the end-to-end claims process is taking longer than the old system of disability living allowance, which relied on a self-assessment form.
“We are working with providers to ensure that all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be and the benefit is back-dated so no-one is left out of pocket.”
But he has so far refused to say which consultants were paid by the government.
Meanwhile, Mike Penning, the Conservative minister for disabled people, has insisted that the government still plans to meet its target of reassessing all current DLA claimants for PIP by 2018.
Responding to a question from Kate Green, his Labour shadow, Penning also insisted that the delays and chaotic implementation would not lead to any additional costs.
He told her that DWP was “committed to driving up PIP performance and we are taking action to improve this by working with providers and reviewing DWP internal processes”.
12 June 2014