Hundreds of thousands of people are having to wait for £300 million of vital support because of delays to PIP applications, according to new analysis from Citizens Advice.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which can see people with an illness, disability or mental health condition receive up to £157 a week, is a lifeline for millions of people. But the waiting list for an assessment is now at an eye-watering 327,000 people, with an average waiting time of 5 months. Citizens Advice projects this means £294m of payments that would be awarded are being held up.
Waiting for this payment is having a huge impact on people. Delays in assessment mean that support is held up, forcing people into impossible choices as they try to make ends meet.
1 in 5 people who have needed a food bank referral from Citizens Advice in the last 3 months also have an issue with PIP. Many of those waiting for a decision will also be eligible for the £150 disability benefits cost-of-living support payment but are unlikely to get it before October’s mammoth energy price hike.
There are more people coming to Citizens Advice for help with PIP than with any other issue – 41% more than the next highest issue. Around 150 people are contacting advisors every hour for one-to-one help, and its webpage on “How the DWP makes a decision on PIP claims” had 27,700 page views last month, up 56% year on year.
Citizens Advice is calling on the government to take urgent action to relieve pressure in the system and help get money to people who desperately need it. The charity is calling for an emergency plan from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to urgently tackle this backlog, including reducing the number of claimants required to have a medical assessment – the main reason for these delays – and extending the award period so people have to reclaim less often.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“The government did the right thing by targeting more financial support towards those who need it most. But there are still things they could be doing to get money in the pockets of people who desperately need it in the cost-of-living crisis.
“Getting a grip on the PIP assessment backlog needs to be a priority for the government. Delays in getting money to people who’re entitled to it can wreck lives. With costs rising all the time, people need this regular support now, not a backdated payment months or years in the future.“
Our advice: “If you struggle with things like preparing and cooking food, washing and bathing or communicating with others, it might be worth applying”
Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:
“PIP can make a huge difference for people who struggle with day to day activities – but the application process can be challenging.
“If you need extra help because of an illness, disability or mental health condition you might be eligible. It’s hard to say if you will qualify for PIP, because it’s assessed on the level of help you individually need rather than being tied to a condition or needing to take a specific medication.
“But if you struggle with things like preparing and cooking food, washing and bathing or communicating with others, it might be worth applying. There is also a mobility component to PIP, so if you have difficulty walking outside you might qualify.
“To apply, you need to contact the Department of Work and Pensions to fill in the initial claim form. It’s best to call them as they can complete it on the phone. You’ll then be sent another, more detailed, form to give details of how your condition affects your day-to-day life, before undertaking a medical assessment.”