Last week, Disability News Service (DNS) reported that a disabled teenager had been left for months without his benefits, apparently because of delays in introducing the new personal independence payment (PIP).
His family told how they had been waiting nearly three months without any communication from Atos Healthcare, the company carrying out the PIP assessments in London and the south of England.
Now other disabled people have come forward to tell DNS of lengthy delays to their claims.
And a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman has admitted that the process – particularly the assessments themselves – was “taking longer than expected”.
One disabled woman, from Surrey, told DNS she had to wait nearly four months after her form was received by DWP before being contacted by Atos.
Nicola Hogg’s form was received by DWP on 9 August, and – after threatening to contact her MP – she finally received a call from Atos offering her a short-notice assessment this week.
Other disabled people have also told DNS of the delays claimants have suffered with their PIP applications.
Fibrogirl, a disability rights campaigner who tweets at @fibro_girl, said on Twitter that the average wait before people were assessed for PIP seemed to be more than four months, and even then “virtually no” decisions had yet been reached by DWP decision-makers.
The Burton Mail reported this month how a couple had been forced to move home because of a delayed PIP claim, and had been relying on food parcels.
The newspaper reported how the woman applied for PIP in June, after a stroke the previous month, but had still not received any money by December, despite having a face-to-face assessment in September.
The blogger yetanotherlefty has described in a post how he had to wait six months before he was awarded PIP.
He had been forced on live on less than £25 a week and crisis loans from his university while he waited, and was “overtaken by stress and despair” as a result of the PIP process.
Another claimant, Phil Harrison, who tweets at @borobeaver, said Atos cancelled his PIP assessment three times at the last minute.
A forum on the Youreable website also shows disabled people angrily reporting delays with their PIP applications, in parts of the country where assessments are carried out by Capita rather than Atos.
One forum member reported receiving an apology letter in October for a lengthy delay with his assessment, but said he was still waiting for a decision on his claim.
A DWP spokesman admitted there were delays with the assessment process.
He said: “Our analysis, which is now beginning to benefit from more meaningful data, is telling us that the end-to-end claiming process is taking longer than expected.
“In particular, providers are telling us that the assessments are taking longer than expected.
“We have identified this through our close monitoring of our providers, including a 100 per cent audit rate of all new assessors.
“We are working with operational colleagues and providers to ensure that all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be in order to provide realistic timings.”
Last week, Jane Young, an independent consultant who advises DWP on aspects of the PIP reforms, suggested there was “a degree of chaos” at DWP, and apparently “significant delays at every stage in the claims process”.
5 December 2013