You may recall that PIP is a new benefit for people of working age who need help participating in everyday life or who find it difficult to get around. It replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA); claims for the new benefit began in June 2013 and those people already in receipt of DLA began being reassessed in October last year.
From Able Magazine #110 (March/April 2014)
The assessments are being conducted by either Capita or Atos on a contract with the Department for Work and Pensions. (Atos have uploaded a video on YouTube of what they say is a typical PIP assessment).
PIP is tax free, not means tested and you do not need to have paid National Insurance contributions to be entitled to it. It is not affected by earnings or other income but designed to cover the additional costs arising from a person’s disability.
So far so good unless of course you turn out to be one of the 600,000 disabled people whom the Government estimate will no longer qualify for the benefit under the new assessment. However, it is not just in the design of the assessment that people are encountering problems.
Calls to our helpline suggest that the problems with contracted out assessments evident in the Work Capability Assessment are being repeated again with PIP assessments. We are not alone in finding that those applying for the new PIP benefit are facing considerable delays. An online forum of welfare rights officers from December revealed a dialogue involving 17 officers on this same theme. These delays are considerable: some advisors refer to delays of up to 20 weeks. There is now some official corroboration of these anecdotes. In February 2014 DWP released figures showing that 229,700 new claims for PIP had been made since April of last year but only 43,800 decisions had been made. Four in every five people are still awaiting a decision on their assessment. Once the terminally ill are taken out of the equation the ratio becomes close to six in every seven. Small wonder that many charities are now pressing the Government for the rollout of the PIP assessment to be suspended until it is adequately resourced.
What is clear is that there are serious consequences for people waiting. One caller, Alan a homeless man on medication for his mental health condition spoke to us about how his psychiatrist was phoning both Capita and the DWP on his behalf. Alan summarised the situation saying that his psychiatrist could “get no sense out of either of them”. Nicola, a caller with an invasive cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatment spoke to us about the stress of waiting 17 weeks for a response to her PIP application but still without news, “I was dismissed from my employment in November whilst off sick too so I currently have no income coming in” she told us.
Disability Rights UK isn’t simply an advice and information service but also a campaigning and advocacy organisation so when people ask for help one of our first responses is to involve their MPs and bring it to the attention of decision makers in government. This isn’t a knee jerk response; naturally, we firstly of advise on their immediate predicament and seek their permission to contact anyone else in a position to respond.
With three million people in receipt of DLA as recently as 2012, it is likely that you might be affected or that you may know of someone who is. If so please ask them to visit our website: disabilityrightsuk.org or you may alternately wish to purchase our guide to PIP via the same website. (If you are interested in helping us to sustain the support and campaigning we can offer to people like Alan or Nicola then contact our business development manager on: 0207 250 3222.)
Able wishes to thank Disability Rights UK.
MORE: Disability Rights UK are taking pre-orders for the new edition of their Disability Rights Handbook, fully updated for 2014/15. You can pre-order this and purchase your RADAR key by visiting their website: disabilityrightsuk.org