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Citizens Advise - PIP delays leave disabled people hundreds of millions of pounds out of pocket

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.

Kate’s Story*: “Not having PIP is forcing me to push myself to do things that I know I shouldn't be doing and it’s seriously affecting my health”

Kate is in her 20s and due to an injury suffers from a stomach prolapse. She can’t work, receives Universal Credit and struggles with day-to-day tasks and needs a lot of support. 

She previously received PIP and had to reapply. Overwhelmed, she turned to Citizens Advice for help.

Kate* said:

“Six months on I’ve still not heard anything. I only have £400 of Universal Credit to live off a month and some of that I’m using to pay off rent arrears. 

“When I was receiving PIP, I could afford to get a taxi to go and get food shopping. My condition means I can't really take public transport as I can't wait around for long periods and I can't carry much - even walking or sitting down hurts. So now I'm having to force myself to get food if I feel able to do it that day. But then I’m really ill afterwards.

“Sometimes I'm not well enough to go and get food so I just don't eat. Then I get dizzy and often faint. Not having PIP is forcing me to push myself to do things that I know I shouldn't be doing and it’s seriously affecting my health. 

“I used to have money to pay people to help with doing some jobs around the house or do a few bits to help me - sometimes I’d rely on friends to help me get dressed. I can’t afford a taxi to go out and see my friends so I’m isolated. On top of that the cost of my food and electricity has gone up, my electricity has doubled in price and food is so expensive.

“PIP was a lifeline for me and I just can't believe 6 months on I’ve not heard anything. I rely on a lot of support and without the money I can’t get that extra help which would make my life easier.”

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.”

You can find out more about Personal Independence Payment, including how to apply and guidance for completing the forms, on the Citizens Advice website.

Notes to editors

  1. Kate’s name has been changed to protect her identity. 

  2. With a waiting list of 327,900 people, projecting the number of successful claims and forecasting based on the mean average of PIP awards made between Feb-Apr 2022 (£101.30), we estimate £294m of payments is currently being held up for applicants who will eventually be successful.

  3. Between 1 June 2022 - 29 June 2022, 20,757 people sought one-to-one advice on PIP from Citizens Advice. This is 41% higher than the next largest advice area (Universal Credit - Initial Claim) and based on a period of 19 working days equates to 156 people an hour.

  4. In May 2022, the government announced an additional £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment for people in receipt of a range of disability benefits, including PIP. To be eligible for this payment, a successful claim must have been made on or before 25 May 2022.

  5. More details about PIP assessment times and trends can be found on gov.uk

  6. Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.

  7. Our network of charities offers impartial advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free. 

  8. We helped 2.4 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2020-21. And we had 40 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.

  9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,600 service outlets across England and Wales.

  10. Citizens Advice is the largest provider of free, multi-channel debt advice. Providing that help gives Citizens Advice unique insight into the types of debts people struggle with.

  11. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and postal markets. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers. 

  12. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers.

Original article link: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/about-us1/media/press-releases/pip-delays-leave-disabled-people-hundreds-of-millions-of-pounds-out-of-pocket/

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