Backlogs in the disability benefit assessment system are having significant knock-on effects on disabled people’s ability to live independently, new evidence has shown.
It is showing how lengthy delays in reviewing people’s personal independence payment (PIP) claims are having a substantial impact on their applications for other benefits, blue parking badges, bus passes and Motability vehicles.
They are also causing delays for disabled people whose support needs have increased and believe they should now be entitled to higher PIP payments.
The evidence has come from the Benefits and Work website, which has heard from a string of existing PIP recipients who say the delays are causing them significant problems.
In March, Disability News Service (DNS) reported how the backlog of disabled people waiting for a PIP assessment had more than trebled in the last five years, from 88,500 in October 2016 to nearly 312,000 by December 2021.
DNS has also reported on similar problems with the Access to Work system, with DWP figures showing the number of disabled people waiting for decisions on their applications has more than quadrupled in a year from just 4,890 in March 2021 to 20,909 in March this year.
One of the ways the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is dealing with the lengthening PIP assessment backlog is by providing temporary, short-term extensions to PIP claimants who are waiting for their benefits to be reviewed.
But this appears to be having significant knock-on effects with premiums and other entitlements available to those receiving PIP.
One Benefits and Work reader said the extension had caused a “nightmare”, causing their pension credit, council tax and housing benefit to be stopped.
Another reader, whose support needs have increased since they were last assessed, has been waiting since last July for a re-assessment, a delay that is causing “constant daily worry”, and has now been told their daughter’s carer’s allowance will stop this month.
Another, who sent in a PIP renewal form for his brother last June, has been told he will lose the disability premium on his employment and support allowance (ESA) because of the PIP delay.
Other Benefits and Work readers have been left unable to lease Motability vehicles until their PIP reviews have been carried out, as PIP recipients need at least a year left on their claim if they want to lease a vehicle through the scheme.
Another reader said they had been unable to renew their bus pass.
And many claimants appear to have been waiting for months for a re-assessment after their support needs have risen.
One said: “I have now been waiting for a review for over a year now my circumstances have massively changed for the worse.
“I keep ringing them and I just get told they are extending it, I’ve never known anything like this before.”
Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “With the cost-of-living crisis hitting disabled people particularly hard, it is shocking this government has not got a grip of the PIP backlog, which has been going on for months now.
“Short term fixes aren’t enough anymore. Disabled people deserve so much better than this; Tory ministers need to get a grip on this backlog, especially given the impact it is now having on other benefits for disabled people.
“A future Labour government would invest properly in disabled people, ensuring they had the support needed.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We closely monitor the progress of PIP cases awaiting assessment and take all steps possible to ensure claimants receive the vital support they require.
“We can and do make in-house decisions on award reviews without referral to assessment providers where necessary and use a blend of phone, video and face-to-face assessments to ensure support is given as quickly as possible.”
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