Some disabled people forced to transfer across to the government’s new disability benefit are missing out on thousands of pounds of backdated payments, thanks to “grossly unfair” rules, say campaigners.
Under the new personal independence payment (PIP) rules, existing disability living allowance (DLA) claimants have to apply for PIP if their circumstances change.
But because of the huge delays and backlogs in the PIP system, many disabled people are having to wait months before a decision is made on their PIP claim.
Under DLA, if a claimant reported a change of circumstance to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), any subsequent increase in their benefits would be backdated to the date when DWP was notified.
But despite the delays in the PIP system – with one disabled claimant even having to wait more than a year just for an assessment – the rules state that there should be no backdating of any higher awards.
To make the situation even more unfair, each new PIP award does not kick in until four weeks after the DLA payday following the date the decision was made on the PIP claim.
Dr Sarah Campbell, principal co-author of the Spartacus report, said: “The government assured disabled people time and time again that no-one would lose out in the transfer from DLA to PIP.
“Whether through mismanagement or design this has been proven to be untrue and disabled people are quite literally paying the price.
“This is totally unacceptable and the government should correct the DLA transfer rules immediately to prevent any more disabled people losing the benefits they are entitled to.”
Lucy Mayou, a Citizens Advice and Macmillan welfare benefits adviser in Cumbria, has been supporting three different claimants who have been hit by the new, tougher backdating rules.
One of the clients, A, is an 18-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, who was previously receiving the lower rate mobility and care components of DLA.
He has now been awarded the enhanced daily living and mobility components of PIP, seven months after notifying DWP of his new circumstances. Because of the rules, he will miss out on backdated benefits worth £3,038.48.
Mayou said this was an “absurd” situation because, if the 18-year-old had made a new claim for PIP in February, he would have been entitled to a full backdated payment of the claim when it was finally awarded.
Another client, B, has terminal breast cancer, but is currently receiving only the lower rate care component of DLA.
Under the DLA rules, she could have requested the higher rate of the benefit to be backdated to the date she was diagnosed as being terminally-ill.
But with PIP, although her case will be dealt with more quickly than other cases because she is terminally-ill, the higher rate will still not be backdated. This could mean she misses out on eight weeks of support at the higher level.
She will also miss out on an increase of £61.10 per week in her employment and support allowance, because she will not become entitled to the severe disability premium until she starts receiving PIP at the new higher rate.
A third client, C, currently receiving DLA higher rate mobility and lower rate care, told DWP on 29 July that he was now terminally-ill, a change that had been confirmed by his GP on 20 July.
He was told by DWP to make a new claim for PIP, which he lodged on 8 August.
On 23 August he was told that he would now be entitled to enhanced rates of both mobility and daily living, but that these new rates would not kick in until 24 September.
Again, under DLA he would have had the difference between the two levels of benefit backdated to 20 July, but thanks to the new PIP rules, he was set to lose out on nine weeks of the higher benefit, about £540.
He died on 2 September, three weeks before his new higher rate of benefit was due to kick in.
Mayou said that B was also so ill that she was unlikely to see payment of the new higher rates, thanks to the backdating rules.
She said the situation was “grossly unfair”, although she accepted that those who end up on lower benefits when transferred from DLA to PIP do not have to pay back any extra money they receive through DLA while awaiting a decision.
She added: “This is another example of how PIP does not serve disabled people well.
“Little thought has been given to those whose conditions deteriorate – this will be many given the nature of a whole variety of impairments covered by the benefit.
“Essentially, individuals are being denied much needed money at a time when their living costs have increased due to disability and, despite being assessed as requiring the assistance, they are not receiving the help until months down the line – and in some instances after it’s too late.
“The rule is ill thought through and is compounded by serious administrative delays.
“The clients we try to help feel let down by ‘the system’. As an adviser, to be told by a terminally-ill person, ‘I will be dead before I receive payment,’ is soul-destroying and to not be able to do anything about it is simply wrong.”
DWP has so far failed to comment.
11 September 2014