The number of disabled people waiting longer than six months to be told whether they have been successful in their claim for a key disability benefit has plummeted over the last year, new figures have shown.
Figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) show that the number of people with a new claim for personal independence payment (PIP) who were waiting longer than six months for a decision has fallen from more than 20,000 to 300 in just 12 months.
The figures, provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), show that the number of disabled people having to undergo the longest waits for a new PIP claim has fallen every month since May 2022, when there were 20,100 new claimants who had been waiting six months or more for a decision by the end of the month.
In June 2022 that fell to 17,500, and then to 16,800 in July 2022, before continuing to drop to 15,800, 15,500 in September 2022, and then 13,400, 10,900 and 9,500 by the end of December.
The number of long waits has continued to fall this year, with 6,500 new PIP claimants waiting longer than six months by the end of January, then 5,300, 3,200 in March and finally just 300 by the end of April.
The unpublished figures apply only to England and Wales, and they exclude claims for those who were terminally-ill.
In its response to the figures, DWP told DNS: “We are committed to ensuring that people can access financial support through personal independence payment (PIP) in a timely manner.
“We always aim to make an award decision as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to review all available evidence.”
Despite the huge falls in those waiting longer than six months for a PIP decision, DWP declined to welcome the figures, commenting instead on average clearance times.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Since August 2021 we’ve halved the time it takes for PIP payments to be approved and processed – making sure people can access the support they are entitled to quickly.”
It said the current average “end-to-end” clearance time for new PIP claims was 13 weeks – about three months – including the period allowed for claimants to complete and return their questionnaire.
One of the measures it has taken, it says, is to prioritise new PIP claims, while ensuring that payments continue until an award review can be completed for claimants who are awaiting reviews of existing PIP claims and have returned the necessary information.
The release of the figures comes as the Conservative party appears to be considering plans to means-test PIP as a way of cutting spending.
The government may be keen to cut waiting-times for PIP because its plans to scrap the work capability assessment will place pressure on DWP to ensure PIP waiting-times are kept to acceptable levels.
Under those plans, which will only go ahead if the Conservatives win the next election, eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits – through a new universal credit “health element” – will be decided by the PIP assessment process.
Meanwhile, the latest figures have shown that it is still taking an average of more than 40 minutes for a call to the PIP enquiry telephone line to get through to an adviser, while hundreds of thousands of callers a month are being deliberately disconnected by DWP before they can even join the queue to speak to a PIP adviser.
And the latest figures from the tribunal service show that, between January and March 2023, 68 per cent of PIP appeals found in favour of the claimant.
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…