Disability benefit delays unacceptable

A report published today by the Work and Pensions Select Committee says that the length of time disabled people are having to wait to find out if they are eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is unacceptable.

The report highlighted that some claims are taking six months or more to process and calls for urgent action to improve the current unacceptable service provided to PIP claimants.

Committee Chair, Dame Anne Begg MP said:

“Many disabled or sick people face waits of 6 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.”

The Report also assesses DWP performance in a number of other policy areas.  It found that the DWP needs to exercise care in the language used in accompanying press releases and ministerial comments in the media, to ensure it avoids the risk of feeding into negative public views about benefit recipients.

Dame Anne commented:

 ”Statistics should be used to shed light on policy implementation, not to prop up established views or feed preconceptions.

“The UK Statistics Authority reprimanded DWP a number of times in 2013 for the way it was handling benefit statistics.

“Government efforts to promote a positive image of disabled people will be undermined if the language used by DWP when communicating benefit statistics to the media feeds into negative perceptions and prejudices about benefit recipients, including disabled people.”

The report can be read in full on the Committee’s page at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/dwp-monitoring-report/

 Further media coverage on the report can be read at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26615853

 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/18/mps-criticise-dwp-spin-statistics-benefit-claimants

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