‘The DWP’s average wait for disabled people seeking an internal appeal, known as a Mandatory Reconsideration, has shot from 32 days to a record 69 days
Penniless disabled people are waiting two months for basic reviews of their benefits after appeal times shot to an all-time high.
Vulnerable people who are denied Personal Independence Payment (PIP) now wait 69 days on average for an internal review by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The figure, dating to July 2019 and published today, is more than double the 32-day average wait in July 2018.
It is thought the ‘Mandatory Reconsiderations’ are taking longer after Tory ministers promised to make them more thorough.
Former DWP Secretary Amber Rudd pledged in March to “enhance” the system “to gather further evidence from claimants and make more accurate decisions sooner.”
But the reforms appear to have caused a bottleneck in the system – which is only the first step benefit claimants go through to appeal their case.
Fewer than a third of people (32%) win the internal reviews, prompting thousands of disabled people each month to fight at an independent tribunal.
Once they have applied for a tribunal, claimants have to wait seven months on average for a hearing – of which 74% end in victory against the DWP.
Michael Griffin of Parkinson’s UK said: “It is no surprise that the Government’s failure to act on the flaws with PIP has resulted in waiting times more than doubling over the last year.
“75% of PIP decisions are reversed when the cases are seen by a tribunal.
“But people have to wait twelve months on average from the start of this process to get the right decision.
“In most cases they will not receive any money while they wait. Without the vital financial support that PIP should provide, people are being forced to choose between paying for food or medication. This is simply unacceptable.
“The Government cannot ignore these delays any longer. Introducing a target time of three months for a case to be heard by a tribunal would reduce at least some of the stress and uncertainty that PIP is causing for disabled people.”
Lib Dem former health minister Sir Norman Lamb said: “This situation is completely unacceptable.
“The financial impact of losing your right to benefits while you wait for an appeal to be heard can be huge. Several of my constituents have massively affected.
“It can result in losing your home, marriages being broken and relationships being left in disarray.
“I am also acutely aware that these long waits can seriously affect people’s mental health. This is completely unfair. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
More than 4.6million people have applied for PIP, which hands people up to £148.85 a week to meet the costs of disability, since it began replacing old benefits in 2013.
Around half, 2.4million, were awarded and there are currently 2.2million claimants entitled to the benefit.
Internal review times for a separate sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, have remained roughly stable at just 8 days.
Yet for PIP they have shot up since last summer, after previously hovering around 20 to 35 weeks for three years.
Processing times rose every single month between August 2018 and January, from 32 days to 54 days.
After a brief dip they then again rose every month between March and July, hitting an all-time high of 69 days.
Meanwhile new figures today showed almost half of complaints against the DWP investigated last year were upheld – 359 out of 806 (44%).
One man was paid £500 in compensation after the DWP delayed six years in sending him proper paperwork that allowed him to seek an appeal.
Another man was sent contradictory and “confusing” letters after the DWP accidentally registered two conflicting PIP claims in his name.’…