The National Audit Office (NAO) published its report on the early progress of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with a specific focus on whether it is providing ‘value for money from a claimant, operational and programme management perspective. The full report can be accessed here.
PIP, a non-means tested benefit to support disabled people with their daily living and mobility costs, was introduced in April 2013 to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The DWP estimated that by 2018 the 1.7 million recipients of DLA will be reassessed for PIP- with an estimated 600,000 less people expected to receive the new benefit. However, the national implementation of PIP has been plagued with difficulties including severe delays for claimants causing great anxiety, stress and uncertainty. In some instances, claimants have been left without any payment.
This is a matter of concern for Livability as the recent changes to the welfare system has had a disproportionately detrimental impact on disabled people, affecting some of our service users. More broadly, as a charity Livability is committed to working closely with disabled and disadvantaged people to challenge injustice and achieve positive change for all.
Despite the controlled and phased introduction of the benefit, the NAO report found that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had underestimated the amount of time and resource required to conduct the assessment resulting in a severe backlog. According to the report, 92,000 claims were outstanding against the expected 32,000 in October 25th 2013. Similarly, the actual time it took to make a decision regarding a claim was 104 days on average for non-terminally ill claimants compared to the projected 74 days, and 28 days compared to the estimated 10 days for terminally ill claimants.
The report also found that the DWP will not make the estimated savings of £780 million (more likely £640 million) it expected in the spending review in the period until April 2015. However the DWP are expected to achieve their longer term saving of £3 billion by 2018-2019 despite recent figures, in a statement from Rt. Hon Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, that PIP claims cost almost three and half times more to administer than Disability Living Allowance and will also take double the amount of time to process.
The report launch coincides with a debate in the House of Commons calling for an independent assessment regarding the cumulative impact of welfare reform on sick and disabled people. It also seeks to end the widely criticised Work Capability Assessment (WCA), a view endorsed by the British Medical Association.
The debate was secured by the campaign coalition – War on Welfare (WOW) after disability campaigner, Francesca Martinez gathered over the needed 100,000 signatures on the petition- sponsored by Labour MPs John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington and Dame Anne Begg, DBE MP for Aberdeen South. This is the first time in parliamentary history a debate has been secured by disabled people for disabled people.
Livability offers its support of the debate and shares wider concerns re. PIP and the WCA programme echoed in a joint letter written by Disability Benefits Consortium – a national coalition of over 50 disability charities, of which Livability is a member.
The letter due to be published this week, appeals to the Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning MP to ‘halt the roll out of DLA reassessments for PIP’ and invites members of the DWP and other government representatives to meet with the DBC to discuss practical alternatives to the current system.