The delays facing some claimants of a flagship government welfare scheme are “unacceptable”, a minister admitted as the latest update was published.
Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that of the 529,400 cases registered for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) between April 2013 and the end of July this year, just over 206,000 had been cleared – either awarded, declined or withdrawn.
The figures do not reveal how long individuals had been waiting within that 16-month period, but Mark Harper, minister for disabled people, accepted that for some it had been too long.
He said: “Unlike the old system, PIP includes a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most.
“Today’s figures show just that, with nearly 23% of people getting the highest level of support, compared with 16% under Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
“We accept that the delays faced by some people are unacceptable, and we are committed to putting that right.
“Between May and July we have doubled the number of claims processed and we are working hard to continue to make further improvements.
“By the end of the year we expect that no-one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 16 weeks.”
According to the statistics, PIP has been awarded to 51% of new claimants since April 2013.
Since October 2013, it has been granted in 72% of reassessment cases, namely people previously on DLA.
They also showed 106,000 people had a PIP claim in payment as of 31 July, an increase of 20,000 on the previous month.
Reacting to the figures, chief executive of disability charity Scope Richard Hawkes called on the government to do “everything in its power” to address the delays, which he said were causing financial uncertainty, distress and anxiety.
He added: “Scope’s helpline has been inundated with disabled people phoning for advice on their PIP claims. Many are facing extreme delays of well over six months.
“Life costs more if you are disabled. Buying a wheelchair, higher energy bills – Scope research shows all this adds up to an extra £550 per month.
“Some costs can’t be avoided, but too often disabled people continue to pay over the odds for everyday items and services.
“PIP is the financial lifeline that disabled people rely on to help meet these costs.
“It was reassuring to hear the minister for disabled people state last week that resolving the ongoing issues with PIP is his top priority.”
PIP was introduced in April 2013 to replace DLA for 16- to 64-year-olds.
Payments are worth between £21 and £138 a week and support people with long-term ill health or disability.
In June, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said theimplementation of PIP had been “rushed” and described the impact as “shocking”.
Chairwoman Margaret Hodge called it “nothing short of a fiasco”.