Five-month delay in disability benefits causing hardship, says Citizens Advice | Disability

Hundreds of thousands of disabled and chronically ill people in the UK are missing out on cash payments worth up to £157 a week as bureaucratic delays have pushed up processing times for benefit claims disability at five months on average.

The charity Citizens Advice said the backlog in processing Personal Independence Payment (Pip) claims was causing widespread stress and hardship. About 150 people per hour were contacting his advisers for one-on-one help with delays.

He urged welfare secretary Therese Coffey to “take charge” of the crisis and ease the pressure on the system. Around 327,000 people, many on low incomes, were waiting for a Pip claim to be processed, with delays holding up nearly £300million in benefit payments.

“Delays in getting money to those who are entitled to it can destroy lives. With costs rising all the time, people need this regular support now, not a back-dated payment months or years in the future,” said Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

The delays meant that many new claimants eligible for the £150 cost of living support payment announced by the government in May were unlikely to get it before energy prices rise again in October, said Citizens Advice.

Lynne Baker, a businesswoman and former NHS nurse, who suffers from a degenerative condition that causes severe pain, mobility issues and fatigue, told the Guardian she waited nine months for her application Pip being dealt with last year, provoking his fury, resignation and despair.

She couldn’t afford to hire someone to clean her house or help her with daily chores, forcing her to take on tasks her body couldn’t handle. “These nine months have been mentally and physically exhausting and have had a detrimental effect on my health,” she said.

The Personal Independence Allowance is a non-means-tested benefit designed to help recipients meet the additional costs of daily living and mobility associated with disability. People whose primary disabling condition is mental health make up almost half of all working-age Pip claimants.

Citizens Advice believes the growing backlogs are caused by labor shortages, the post-pandemic release of pent-up demand for Pip and the emergence of long-term Covid-related health issues.


Labor called the delays another example of the “British backlog”. Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Welfare Secretary, said: ‘In the midst of a cost of living crisis, it is unacceptable that people with disabilities are being forced to wait an average of five months to receive vital social security .”

The current Pip delays are the latest in a series of controversies over the benefit, which was introduced as part of a series of welfare reforms in 2013 by the Coalition Government to reduce the number of claimants and save billions by reducing expenses by 20%.

In 2015, a court reprimanded the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after average PIP processing times soared to 42 weeks a year earlier, pushing claimants into trouble. After hiring hundreds of additional employees, Pip’s average wait was reduced to 12 weeks. Since 2018, however, processing times have steadily increased.

A separate analysis, published Wednesday by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, concluded that spending on disability benefits had soared, and at a faster rate than before the introduction of the Pip, in part due to a long-term growth in disability benefit claims driven by an increase in mental health issues.

Heidi Karjalainen, research economist at IFS, said: “Over the past three decades, the proportion of working-age people claiming disability benefits has risen from 2% to 6%. This reflects an increasing rate of mental health problems across society. If this trend continues – or is even accelerated by the pandemic – it will add further pressure on spending on disability benefits.

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘We continue to improve our service to the millions of disabled people applying for benefits, with processing times down six weeks from last year, and we are supporting those who can work to find fulfilling employment, with 1.3 million more people with disabilities finding employment in the past five years.

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