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DWP slammed over 'unacceptable' delays in disability benefit claims

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DWP slammed over 'unacceptable' delays in disability benefit claims

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Bill Payments, Housing, Local Government

DWP slammed over 'unacceptable' delays in disability benefit claims DWP slammed over 'unacceptable' delays in disability benefit claims

The length of time disabled people are having to wait to find out if they are eligible for benefit is unacceptable, according to a new report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

The report revealed that new claims for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the replacement for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as the benefit to help towards the extra costs of disability for people of working age, are taking six months or more to process.

The majority of people applying for PIP undergo a face-to-face assessment to determine eligibility, which is carried out by private contractors. The report calls for urgent action to improve the current unacceptable service provided to PIP claimants.

It recommends that:

  • Penalty clauses in the DWP's contracts with the assessment providers, Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services, be invoked where necessary
  • DWP clear the existing backlog of PIP claims before reassessment of existing DLA claimants is extended
  • All necessary resources be devoted to meeting a seven-day target for processing PIP claims from terminally ill people

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said: “Many disabled or sick people face waits of six months or more for a decision on their PIP eligibility. Even those with terminal illnesses are having to wait far longer than was anticipated. This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty. It is completely unacceptable.

“It is vital that all disabled people, but especially the terminally ill, experience as little delay and stress as possible in making a claim. Basic failures – from appointments being cancelled without notice to unsatisfactory responses to queries about claims – are happening too often. Claimants, and their MPs, have often been unable to get any information about when a decision will finally be made.

“The minister acknowledged that the service claimants were receiving from Atos and Capita – and in some cases from DWP itself – was not acceptable. Whilst this recognition is welcome, urgent action is also required. DWP should not only consider invoking penalty clauses in contracts, but must look at its own systems to ensure that the current dire situation is resolved.

“By the end of last year decisions had been made in fewer than 20% of new claims submitted since April 2013. It is essential that the backlog is cleared before the limited natural reassessment of existing DLA claims is extended any further.”

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