First PIP review ’proves roll-out should be delayed’


newslatestA national disabled people’s organisation has called on the government to halt next year’s planned roll-out of its new disability benefit, following the publication of a critical independent review.

The first review of personal independence payment (PIP), by former civil servant Paul Gray, was given a low-key release by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) this week.

Gray chairs DWP’s social security advisory committee and is former managing director of its pensions and disability section.

The gradual replacement of working-age disability living allowance (DLA) by PIP began in April 2013, although its implementation has been hit by delays and backlogs, and most existing DLA claimants will not be asked to apply for PIP until October 2015 at the earliest.

Gray says in the report that it is ”too early to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the PIP assessment”, although the current PIP process ”gives a disjointed experience for claimants”.

Gray says he did not focus on the ”long delays and backlogs in the assessment process” because he had ”taken it as given” that DWP would carry out ”remedial action”.

He concentrates instead on whether the eligibility criteria for PIP are being applied ”in the way intended”, and on improving the claimant experience, clarifying and improving the collection of further evidence, and ensuring the fairness and consistency of PIP awards.

He concludes that there is no need for major change to the PIP process in the short-term, but there are areas where ”early improvements” should be made.

Among his recommendations, he calls for better communication with claimants, and says that decision letters sent out by DWP are ”unclear and confusing and the quality variable”.

Gray also calls for better use of digital and other technology in the PIP process, and suggests there should be a website that would allow disabled people to track progress with their claims.

He says DWP should move away from a “one size fits all” model for the claims process and develop a more ”tailored approach based on the needs of claimants”.

And he suggests DWP consider the potential for sharing more information and evidence from other assessments, such as health and social care reports, as well as the department’s own much-criticised work capability assessment.

Mark Harper, the Conservative minister for disabled people, welcomed the review and said DWP would “publish a detailed response in due course”.

But Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said it was “deeply unsurprised” that the independent review had found the PIP process to be “disjointed”.

A DR UK spokesperson said: “We believe that this is putting it mildly given that today’s published PIP statistics show a backlog of 240,800 claims (40 per cent) awaiting clearance.

“Whilst we welcome some of the recommendations of the review and call on government to implement them in full, there is little in the review which inspires confidence in the PIP backlog being cleared.

“We hear from people daily who are struggling with the PIP claim process; who experience massive hardship because of delays of months in getting their assessment completed.

“Disability Rights UK would like to see a halt to the further roll out of PIP, in October 2015, until the existing backlog has been fully cleared.”

The DWP’s new statistics on PIP show that only 352,100 new PIP claims had been cleared by 31 October 2014, out of 592,900 applications since April 2013. And only 29,900 reassessments of DLA had been dealt with, out of 76,300 claims.

Of all new claim decisions (excluding withdrawn claims), 54 per cent have so far led to PIP being awarded, while 79 per cent of DLA reassessments resulted in a successful PIP claim.

Of the 207,500 claimants who were receiving PIP on 31 October 2014, 65 per cent were receiving at least one award at the enhanced rate, rather than the standard rate.

And of those 207,500 claimants, 127,700 (62 per cent) were receiving both the mobility and daily living components, 29 per cent were receiving daily living only, and nine per cent were receiving mobility only.

18 December 2014