Harper urged to act over PIP delays


newslatestThe minister for disabled people has been urged by his Labour shadow to take urgent action to tackle the lengthy backlogs and delays plaguing the government’s new disability benefit.

Labour’s Kate Green said in her letter to Mark Harper this week that she was concerned about “disturbing” claims made by a whistleblower to a national newspaper.

The Daily Mirror said last week that a call centre worker for Capita – which is assessing personal independence payment (PIP) claimants across Wales and central England – had described how many disabled people were having to wait more than a year for their claims to be dealt with.

The whistleblower said some callers were suicidal because of the delays, while some had lost their homes because they could not pay their rent. She said she was having to “lie on a daily basis” about why cases were being delayed.

She also claimed that assessors had been told to focus on new PIP cases, rather than those disabled people who were already claiming disability living allowance.

Disability News Service has published a series of reports on claimants who have had lengthy and distressing delays with their claims for PIP, following its launch and gradual rollout from the spring of 2013.

Harper told the Mirror that he expected no claimants to be waiting longer than 26 weeks for a PIP assessment by the autumn, and insisted that Capita had not been told to prioritise new cases.

But Green said in her letter: “Waiting six months for an assessment with no guarantee of a decision by DWP about a claim will be cold comfort for the thousands of disabled people and the families affected.”

She said the delays were leaving many disabled people and their families in “severe hardship”.

Green said it was “of considerable concern to disabled people that you believe a 26 week wait just for an assessment would be acceptable, and there is an urgent need for assurances from you that delays will be tackled, and assessments and decisions expedited”.

Green told Disability News Service: “The Capita whistleblower’s report backs up what disabled people have known for months but is denied by DWP; that the PIP system is in chaos, waste and delays are endemic, and ministers appear to be in denial about the scale of the problem.

“Until DWP acknowledge the problems that exist, disabled people will continue to suffer without support while taxpayers foot the bill for ever-growing systems failure and delays.”

14 August 2014