MPs tell of six-month PIP delays


newslatestPeople applying for the government’s new disability benefit are facing delays of more than six months, according to a disabled Labour MP.

Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said she was receiving emails from people who have been waiting for a decision for more than six months since being assessed for personal independence payment (PIP).

Disability News Service reported last month that claimants of PIP – which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance – were regularly facing delays of more than four months before they were assessed.

Delays have been reported in parts of the country where assessments are carried out by Atos Healthcare and those where the outsourcing giant Capita is carrying out the tests.

Capita was apparently so concerned about delays that it brought in three trouble-shooters from another part of the company.

Atos is carrying out assessments in London, the south and east of England, as well as the north of England and Scotland, while Capita is assessing claimants across Wales and the Midlands, and will eventually assess claimants in Northern Ireland.

Dame Anne told MPs this week that she is receiving emails from “people across the whole country, as well as from my own constituents, who have been waiting for more than six months” since their face-to-face assessment, and “still have not heard whether they will get the benefit or not”.

Other MPs also told of constituents facing delays longer than six months.

The Conservative MP for St Albans, Anne Main, said that one of her constituents waited three months for an assessment, and three months after the test the claim was “still stuck in the system”.

The Labour MP for Wrexham, Ian Lucas, said five cases had been brought to his attention since June, and not one of the disabled people involved had received any money.

He said: “The assessments have been carried out, yet DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] employees are telling people being treated for cancer to phone up and chase Capita. Will the minister do something about it, because this system is collapsing?”

His Welsh Labour colleague, Madeleine Moon, who represents Bridgend, told of one constituent who applied for PIP in June, and another who applied in July.

Both were tested by Capita in August, but neither of those assessments had yet reached DWP, which she said was “totally unacceptable”.

Moon said: “This company is inept, inefficient and not fit to carry out the work it is asked to do.”

Mike Penning, the Conservative minister for disabled people, admitted there were delays with the PIP process, but he claimed they were “based on getting the quality and the decisions right”.

He insisted that the “vast majority” of claims were “getting through”, and said: “I see cases at my surgery the same as others do, but the vast majority are getting their benefits.”

Penning promised to look into the individual cases, and added: “There is no point in having a very quick journey if we get the wrong decision.”

Meanwhile, the process of reassessing existing DLA claimants rolled out to parts of Scotland for the first time this week.

The first reassessments had been due to begin on 28 October 2013 across England, Scotland and Wales – having already been delayed once – but due to further delays they only began in Wales, the Midlands and a small part of East Anglia.

Apart from a small part of Gloucestershire and the Ipswich and Norwich postcode areas, the reassessment process had been put on hold in all of the Atos zones.

Now the rollout has finally begun in the first sizeable Atos areas, from 13 January, with existing DLA claimants in Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh, Galashiels and Motherwell – and some living just over the Scottish border in England – now being invited to claim PIP if their care or mobility needs change, if their fixed-term award is due to expire, or if they turn 16.

Next month, PIP reassessment will begin in Carlisle, Lancaster, Darlington, Harrogate, and York.

16 January 2014