Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Hundreds of local disabled people hit by 'disgraceful' government delays in payments scheme

According to Cat Smith, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, hundreds of disabled people in Lancaster could face hardship or be left without essential support due to delays in being assessed for help with the extra costs they face.

Cat Smith said latest figures showed 560 people in the constituency were among more than 320,000 people across the country still waiting for a decision on support since Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) were launched 16 months ago.

And the delays have contributed to a £1.4 billion overspend by the Conservative-led Coalition Government on the costs of PIPs and the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) they are replacing.

Working-age people with disabilities or significant health problems can apply for PIPs to help with the additional costs they face in getting around and seeking support with daily tasks like eating, washing and dressing. They are assessed for the hours and type of assistance they need and this is costed out into an annual budget which they then use to directly recruit and employ helpers using a government supervised scheme.  The payments are worth between £21 and £134 a week depending on the severity of the person’s condition. You can find out more about Personal Independence Payments at

The Government had estimated it would take 12-15 weeks for people to receive a decision on their eligibility for the payment.  But now people are waiting an average 16 weeks just for an assessment and a further wait before a decision is made.

Figures show that of the 529,000 people across the country who have applied for the payment, just 206,000 have received a decision – with a collective delayed waiting time of nearly 11 million days.

Ms Smith said: “It’s a disgrace that so many disabled people in Lancaster are still waiting for a decision on whether they can receive this vital support.

“These payments are a lifeline to people who are unable to do things for themselves through no fault of their own.

“The delays are leaving scores of vulnerable people in limbo and at risk of real hardship as winter arrives.

“The Government’s reforms have been a costly shambles from the outset and it’s time David Cameron took urgent action to deal with this huge backlog of claims.”

Government ministers estimated the introduction of PIPs would save £1.2 billion during the lifetime of the current Parliament.  But House of Commons statistics show spending on PIPs and DLA has cost taxpayers £1.4 billion more than estimated in 2010 - partly due to the delays.

Most people applying for PIP have a face-to-face assessment to determine eligibility, which have been carried out by the private contractors Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services.

The Office of Budget Responsibility, National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee have all raised concerns about the rising costs and significant delays to PIP delivery.

The Public Accounts Committee said in June that the PIP reforms had been “rushed” through with a “shocking” impact on claimants, with some waiting six months for a decision.

It said claimants had endured an "unacceptable" standard of service, with assessors failing to turn up at centres or cancelling home visits at the last minute.

The committee told how one claimant had needed hospital treatment as a result of the stress caused by the delays, while others were forced to turn to food banks and loans to cope with the extra costs caused by their disability.

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