Statistics show that thousands of disabled people are still waiting over 16 weeks just to get an assessment
The DWP has published statistics on the coalition’s new Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). The stats show the government has failed – again – to get a grip of its new benefit, leaving thousands of disabled people without support.
PIPs were introduced from April 2013 to replace Disability Living Allowance for working age claimants. But Iain Duncan Smith soon performed his ‘reverse-Midas’.
Delays, backlogs and criticism forced the department to revise rollout plans significantly. The majority of DLA claimants were to be assessed after October 2015. The NAO still warned that DWP was not on track, disabled people were hit by the impact of delays and the OBR revised DLA/PIP forecasts six times as a result of repeated ministerial failures to get a grip.
Ministers also shifted the timetable for how long disabled people seeking PIPs can expect to wait for support. Initial plans proposed 12-15 weeks from claims to decisions by DWP. This became an expected 26 weeks just for people to get an assessment as part of the new, multi-million pound process; additional weeks of delays are experienced waiting for DWP to process applications and make decisions.
Despite the much lower number of people requiring PIP assessments and the extended waiting times, DWP still failed to clear the backlog. Last month the process was subject to significant criticism by the independent reviewer in a report published by DWP. It concluded that not enough was being done to tackle delays for disabled people.
IDS and the minister for Disabled People published ad hoc stats today in response to a debate secured by Labour last week. The stats were an attempt to demonstrate DWP is meeting the promise ministers made to deliver all assessments within 16 weeks by the end of 2014.
This promise was secured during an Opposition Day Debate called by shadow secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves MP in June 2014.
But the stats show that thousands of disabled people are still waiting over 16 weeks just to get an assessment. This week the Guardian reported on one man with cancer who has waited ten months for an assessment. The fudged stats also pose more questions than ministers have been willing to answer:
Why are one in ten people still waiting more than 16 weeks for an assessment?
Why are over 180,000 people still stuck in a backlog waiting to have their claims assessed?
How many of the 64,000 claims that have been ‘disallowed’ by the department were due to disabled people being unable to supply medical information from GPs and hospital consultants within the timeframe stipulated by DWP; and how many of them will simply reapply?
How many of the 143,000 disallowed claims were due to disabled people being unable to attend assessments; and how many of them will reapply?
And how long is the average wait from claim to DWP decision for disabled people and their families across the country?
DWP has admitted it had to employ 76 additional temporary staff to try and reduce the backlog. But DWP hasn’t said how many staff in total it’s had to redeploy to cope with the delays in the benefit.
Nor do we know when DWP expects rollout of PIP to be complete; how many disabled people will not qualify for support; and how much more will it cost overall than initially projected.
Disabled people are right to feel aggrieved by the way the government has mishandled this issue, leaving thousands without help for months. Labour are committed to tackling the delays and the backlog that’s built up.
We’ll also ensure no one with cancer waits longer than 11 weeks for PIP assessments. After months of Tory welfare waste, and hardship for thousands of claimants, it’s time to get a grip.
Kate Green MP is the shadow minister for Disabled People. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.