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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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South Cumbria Benefits adviser voices concern over assessment waiting times

A DISABILITY benefits adviser has voiced her concerns about assessment waiting times.

The National Audit Office revealed this week that claimants for the new Personal Independence Payment were waiting an average of 107 days.

This is much higher than the predicted processing time of 74 days and many are worried disabled people will face distress and money trouble.

Meanwhile claimants with terminal illnesses are waiting an average of 28 days, instead of the predicted 10.

Disability benefits adviser for Barrow and District Disability Association Julia Everett said: “We have found there has been delays with people waiting for their benefits. Some of my clients have been waiting four or five months. It has been identified as a particular problem in the North-West area.”

Within six months of the introduction of PIPs in some areas of the North in April 2013, a backlog of 92,000 cases had built up.

Private contractors Atos, Capita and the Department of Work and Pensions had made decisions in only 16 per cent of the expected number of cases.

Ms Everett continued: “I think the problem has occurred because it’s just a total change in the whole process. There are now different benefits and a different criteria.

“Everybody that claims has now had to have a new medical assessment, and I think they’re struggling with the sheer amount of people they have to deal with.”

It is not the first time that Atos, the DWP and the PIP system have received criticism.

Many have branded the assessment process as a point scoring system not tailored to individual cases. A number of assessments involving people with significant disabilities or illnesses being sent back to work have become high profile.

But the DWP has defended the new PIP system, suggesting that it is far superior to the old Disability Living Allowance despite longer waiting times.

A DWP spokesman said: “The old system was broken.

“Personal Independence Payment is a principled reform which will ensure support is focused on those with the greatest need.

“It includes a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews, something missing under the old system.”

Each new PIP claim – worth between £21 and £134 a week to disabled claimants – costs an average of £182 to administer, compared to £49 under the disability living allowance.

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