The DBC strongly welcome the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into the early progress of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The inquiry has been launched following the National Audit Office (NAO) report on the early progress of the new benefit, which was published last week.
The NAO report highlights that severe delays are occurring in the system, leaving disabled people at risk of distress and financial difficulty. The report states that a number of DWP’s expected targets for the benefit have not been achieved:
- Just 16% of expected PIP decisions had been made by 25 October 2013
- By October 2013, 92,000 claims remained outstanding for the benefit – the DWP had expected just 32,000
- The Department has incurred unexpected costs of £140 million as a result of the implementation problems
The report reflects our continued concern – that the impact of the reforms on disabled people were not fully considered or assessed prior to proposal and subsequent implementation, resulting in a system that is not fit for purpose in its current form.
Given the continued delays in processing claims, the NAO recommends that the Department review whether the problems it has experienced so far might affect the future financial performance of the programme, and crucially its ability to target support to those with greatest need.
In light of continued delays and the impact these have on public spending and the wellbeing of disabled people across the UK, we strongly welcome the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into the early progress of PIP.
Impact of poor early progress on disabled people
The poor early performance outlined in the NAO report directly affects the people who have already submitted claims, and can also point to longer-term risks.
In particular, disabled people are experiencing long delays in receiving a decision about their claim. The DWP had expected an average of 74 days and 10 days to process claims from non-terminally ill people and terminally-ill people – the NAO reports that the actual time is 107 days and 28 days, respectively. Indeed, in our experience, significant numbers of new claimants are now waiting in excess of six months to reach the assessment phase of their application, and even longer for a final decision.
In the meantime, managing the additional costs they face as a result of their disability can be impossible. We are extremely concerned by the latest statistics released by the Department that show that, as of December 2013, only 19% of new claims for PIP have been given a decision.
The additional costs that PIP is designed to help with can be extremely high. The benefit is used for a wide range of care and mobility related costs, for example, paying for taxis to hospital appointments, wheelchairs, or help around the home. Research shows that disabled people spend between £200-£900 per month, with an average of £550 per month on costs related to their disability. In our experience, some people are able to pay for the support they need, but this is generally at the expense of other basic essentials. Many are also fearful of the system, and feel there is no guarantee that they will eventually receive the support they need. The stress and anxiety they experience while they wait for their claim to be processed can be unbearable.
The fact that the DWP is unable to tell people how long they can expect to wait before a decision is made compounds this further.
Continued delays for benefit decisions are creating unnecessary distress and financial hardship for many disabled people. With disabled people already twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people, these delays represent a serious threat to the independence and quality of life of millions.
Reducing pressure on the system
The Department has a vital opportunity to reduce pressure on the system by halting the planned roll out of DLA reassessments. Taking this step is crucial to enable the department to ensure that the PIP process is fit for purpose before more disabled people come to rely on it.
The potential value of additional evidence
We strongly believe that the Department could speed the PIP process up at no extra cost.
In particular, the government could save vital time and money by making better use of additional evidence that already exists about individual claimants, such as reports from specialists or care workers.
Many disabled people, such as those who are proven to have very serious impairments, long-term and degenerative conditions, simply do not need to undergo a full and rigorous reassessment for PIP.
Moreover, using additional evidence to inform the nature of individual assessments will help to ensure assessors have a better understanding of how an individual’s disability affects them. This contributes to better decision-making, which could subsequently reduce the amount of appeals launched following a decision on a claim.
 P5, ‘Personal Independence Payment: Management Information’, DWP, February2014.
 Scope calculation based on Demos (2010) survey data. ‘Counting the cost’, Demos, 2010 http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/countingthecost.
 P5,’ Disability Poverty in the UK’, Parckar G, Leonard Cheshire Disability, 2008.