Disabled people have been forced to turn to loan sharks and food banks because of the “unlawfully long time” taken to provide them with vital welfare benefits, the High Court has heard at the launch of a challenge to the delays.
Many families have suffered months of anxiety, and faced eviction threats, waiting to receive new benefits known as personal independence payments (Pips), a judge was told.
Two test case claimants are asking the court to declare that the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has breached his common law and human rights duties to make payments within a reasonable time.
Pips are replacing the disability living allowance (DLA) in Government reforms to help disabled adults meet the extra costs caused by disability.
Lawyers for the claimants say they are concerned by the delays as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has acknowledged it is coming to “the difficult period” when it will move 1.75 million people receiving DLA over to Pips.
Figures released at the end of March revealed that 3,200 people making new claims had been waiting for more than a year to receive payments.
Lisa Giovannetti QC, representing the claimants, said the delays had led to many people being forced to borrow from friends or turn to loan sharks.
Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, has issued a statement saying “significant progress” is being made in dealing with claims.