A disabled woman left “financially and socially isolated” after waiting more than six months for her claim for the new disability benefit to be processed is taking legal action against the government.
Ms C, from Kent, claims she is struggling to eat and heat her home because of the delays with her application for personal independence payment (PIP).
The introduction of PIP – which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance – has been hit by lengthy backlogs and delays, with some claimants having to wait more than a year just to be assessed.
Ms C applied for PIP in January this year after her health condition worsened and she was forced to leave her job.
She said: “The delay has had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIP so I could look after myself, but without it I can barely eat and only ever leave my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.
“While PIP wouldn’t solve all of my problems, without it I just feel financially and socially isolated.”
Last month, Disability News Service reported how new government figures appeared to show that at least 150,000 disabled people had been waiting longer than four months for the government to decide on their PIP claims.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures also showed that about 490,000 people registered a new PIP claim between its launch in April 2013 and 31 July 2014. But of those claims, only 200,000 had so far been cleared.
Ms C is being represented by solicitors Irwin Mitchell, which has applied for a judicial review to examine the actions of Conservative work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, on the grounds that such lengthy delays “amount to a failure to reach a decision within a reasonable time”.
They argue that taking six months or more to determine PIP claims is unreasonable, because the purpose of the benefit is to support disabled people of working-age who have extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or disability.
Anne-Marie Irwin, a public law specialist with Irwin Mitchell, said: “The delays that our client and potentially thousands of others have faced are simply unnecessary and unacceptable, as they need this support to be able to get the most from everyday life.
“This issue has left our client struggling to cope financially, with the strain and stress of these issues also having a significant impact on her health and wellbeing.
“We’ve been left with little choice but to take this action to ensure that the voice of our client is heard.”
This week, the Conservative minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, told MPs that the government was “moving in the right direction” with the PIP delays and that by the end of the year “no-one will have to wait more than 16 weeks for their assessment”.
Harper said: “I understand the frustrations that people have experienced. There have been cases in my constituency of people waiting too long.
“I have been frank about that, and my top priority is to improve that situation.”
28 October 2014