A disabled woman has described how she has been made to feel “helpless” after waiting more than a year to be assessed for the government’s new disability benefit.
Beverley Daniel lodged her claim on 5 September 2013 and despite calling the government contractor Atos Healthcare nearly every week for the last six months, still has no date for her assessment for personal independence payment (PIP).
She has also been told repeatedly when calling Atos – which specialises in information technology services – that staff cannot deal with her enquiry because their computer system has crashed.
Daniel, who works part-time and lives in east London, said: “I cannot explain how frustrating the whole situation is, and how it makes you feel more helpless within yourself.
“It is as if you have absolutely no control over what is going on. It is just another way of disabling somebody.”
She added: “Something needs to be done. No-one should be waiting this long.”
The delay to her PIP claim has meant she has been unable to pay her car insurance this month – her car is the only way she can reach the shops, because of her mobility problems – or fix the shower in her wet-room.
And she has been told the council will not even consider a disabled facilities grant to repair her bathroom unless she has PIP.
PIP would also help her pay for ready-prepared fresh vegetables, as she cannot peel them herself, and for the specialist – and more expensive – diet she is likely to need soon.
While she has been waiting for her PIP assessment, Atos has assessed her and found her eligible for employment and support allowance – because she had at the time been on sick leave for a lengthy period – and also assessed her and found her eligible for a blue parking badge, under two separate contracts.
Daniel said she knew there had been lengthy delays and backlogs since PIP was introduced last year – with some disabled people forced to wait for more than a year before receiving a decision on their claim – but she had yet to hear of anyone having to wait more than a year just for a face-to-face assessment.
Daniel said she was keen to know if any other disabled person had had to wait as long as she had for an assessment.
An Atos spokesman has so far refused to comment on the problems with the IT system, why Daniel has been forced to wait so long, and whether anyone else had been forced to wait this long for an assessment.
He also refused to say whether the case demonstrated that Atos’s part of the PIP system was in near-meltdown.
He said in a statement: “We apologise for the delay to Ms Daniel. Both ourselves and the DWP have been up front about delays in the PIP system and we apologise for this.
“We are taking immediate action to reduce delays in our part of the process. We are working to extend our network of healthcare partners and we are directly recruiting more staff, both health professionals and administration, to increase capacity.
“If found eligible for PIP the DWP will make a back payment to the date of the initial claim.”
DWP has so far declined to comment.
This morning (5 September), Atos called Daniel and offered her an assessment on 8 October, which will be more than 13 months since she lodged her application for PIP.
5 September 2014