PIP delays leaving people with disabilities hundreds of millions out of pocket

Average waiting time for assessment now five months, Citizen Advice says

NHS 'should not pay for PIPs'

Ministers are being urged to take immediate action to fix delays to PIP applications as hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and illnesses are forced to wait months for £300m worth of vital payments.

Some 327,000 people are now on the waiting list for an assessment, with an average wait of five months, according to analysis by Citizens Advice.

Personal independence payment (PIP), which can see people with an illness, disability or mental health condition receive up to £157 a week, is a lifeline for millions of people.

Delays in assessment mean that support is held up, forcing people into impossible choices as they try to make ends meet.

One in five people who have needed a food bank referral from Citizens Advice in the past three months also have an issue with PIP, the charity said.

Many of those waiting for a decision will also be eligible for the £150 disability benefits cost-of-living support payment but are unlikely to get it before October’s mammoth energy price hike.

There are more people coming to Citizens Advice for help with PIP than with any other issue, the charity added – some 41 per cent more than the next highest issue.

Around 150 people are contacting advisors every hour for one-to-one help, and its webpage on “How the DWP makes a decision on PIP claims” had 27,700 page views last month, up 56 per cent year on year.

Kate* is in her 20s and due to an injury suffers from a stomach prolapse. She can’t work, receives universal credit and struggles with day-to-day tasks and needs a lot of support.

She previously received PIP and had to reapply. Overwhelmed, she turned to Citizens Advice.

She said: “Six months on I’ve still not heard anything. I only have £400 of universal credit to live off a month and some of that I’m using to pay off rent arrears.

“When I was receiving PIP, I could afford to get a taxi to go and get food shopping. My condition means I can't really take public transport as I can’t wait around for long periods and I can't carry much – even walking or sitting down hurts. So now I’m having to force myself to get food if I feel able to do it that day. But then I’m really ill afterwards.”

She added: “Sometimes I’m not well enough to go and get food so I just don’t eat. Then I get dizzy and often faint. Not having PIP is forcing me to push myself to do things that I know I shouldn’t be doing and it’s seriously affecting my health.

“I used to have money to pay people to help with doing some jobs around the house or do a few bits to help me – sometimes I’d rely on friends to help me get dressed. I can’t afford a taxi to go out and see my friends so I’m isolated. On top of that the cost of my food and electricity has gone up, my electricity has doubled in price and food is so expensive.

“PIP was a lifeline for me and I just can’t believe 6 months on I’ve not heard anything. I rely on a lot of support and without the money I can’t get that extra help which would make my life easier.”

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to take urgent action to relieve pressure in the system and help get money to people who desperately need it.

The charity is calling for an emergency plan from the secretary of state for work and pensions to urgently tackle this backlog, including reducing the number of claimants required to have a medical assessment – the main reason for these delays – and extending the award period so people have to reclaim less often.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government did the right thing by targeting more financial support towards those who need it most. But there are still things they could be doing to get money in the pockets of people who desperately need it in the cost of living crisis.

“Getting a grip on the PIP assessment backlog needs to be a priority for the government. Delays in getting money to people who’re entitled to it can wreck lives. With costs rising all the time, people need this regular support now, not a backdated payment months or years in the future."

The Independent has contacted the DWP for comment.

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