Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, today appeared to rule out any delay in rolling-out personal independence payment (PIP) to all other working age disability living allowance (DLA) claimants from October of this year.
The PIP roll-out is due to be extended to all claimants with an indefinite or lifetime award of DLA from October of this year.
However, there have been massive delays in making PIP decisions for new claimants and for claimants with time-limited awards of DLA who are being assessed for PIP.
The delays have been so acute that last week two claimants won their case at the High Court after being kept waiting 13 months and 10 months for a decision. The high court judge ruled that the claimants were amongst the most vulnerable in society and that the delay by the DWP had been “unlawful” and “unacceptable”.
However, the court did not accept the argument that the delays were a breach of the claimant’s human rights.
Nonetheless, following the decision, the DWP has come under pressure to delay the planned roll-out of PIP to cover all working age DLA claimants.
The DWP, however, is reluctant to do so as their research suggests that around 26% of DLA claimants will lose their award when they are assessed under PIP rules, leading to a considerable cut in the cost of disability benefits.
Writing on the Gov.uk website today, Tomlinson said:
“The government was keen to launch PIP because it offers so much more than Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which it replaces. It targets support to those who need it most and considers needs arising from all impairments equally and consistently.”
He claimed that PIP delays were a thing of the past, arguing:
“Today, the assessment providers employ almost 4 times more health professionals than they did in early 2014. Meanwhile, new assessment centres have been opened to reduce claim processing times and reduce the distance many claimants need to travel.
“The average new PIP claimant now waits only 7 weeks for an assessment and the number of claims in the system at any one time is sustainable. We are in a good position to build on the improvements made and work closely with providers to deliver a better, joined-up service. It is absolutely essential, having seen these delays in 2013 and early 2014, that we learn from the past.”
Whilst not specifically addressing the October deadline for full roll-out, Tomlinson went on to say:
“We simply cannot afford to put this progress in jeopardy. I remain absolutely committed to the further rollout of Personal Independence Payment – but in a way which ensures we learn from our past experiences.
“I am clear that the next and final stage of PIP roll-out which will reassess those on lifetime DLA awards must be carried out in a safe and controlled manner.
“At the same time, we will continue to push for improvements in the level of service experienced by claimants. In particular, we are committed to ensuring that our communications are as clear and accessible as possible.
“Having recognised there was a problem, made a public commitment to solve it, and then delivered on that, now is the time to build on the progress.
“We should not let the difficulties of the past prevent us from delivering a better future.”
Tomlinson may not be willing to come out and say it directly, but the message seems clear – no delay in forcing DLA claimants onto PIP or off disability benefits altogether.