Evidence from CAB advisers across Scotland shows that the new personal independence payment (PIP) system is dogged by huge delays which are making claimants health conditions worse. Claimants are also getting into huge financial difficulties and some are missing out on many months’ worth of linked benefits as a result.{jcomments on}

The main points in the Citizens Advice Scotland report include:

  • The assessment process is problematic for many clients, with some having to travel long distances to their test centre. 24% of CAB advisers report that the assessment decisions are inaccurate and need to be appealed.
  • Clients are experiencing huge delays between their claim and receiving payment. The average is 6 months, but some have reported delays of 13, 14 or 15 months.
  • Over half of CAB advisers say these delays cause the claimant severe hardship, with many of them needing to use foodbanks. 78% say this causes their condition to deteriorate, and 95% say this impacts negatively on their ability to claim other benefits.

Publishing today’s report, CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee says,

“The basic cost of living is generally higher for sick and disabled people than for the average citizen. This is because of the additional costs of special food, medicines or equipment they might need, extra heating and lighting costs for those who need to stay at home longer, or transport costs for those who are less mobile.

“These extra costs are not luxuries. They are essential to leading a basic life of dignity, and any civilised society should make it a priority to see that people who need this help get it without fuss. The evidence we are publishing here shows that, under the new Personal Independence Payment, too many disabled people are not getting that support, and many are falling into poverty as a result.

The CAS report contains many anonymised case studies, including:

A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client who applied for PIP in November 2013. As of August 2014 he has heard nothing about having a face-to-face assessment or getting a decision about his benefit.

An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has serious health issues and last year was diagnosed with throat cancer. The client has been waiting for over ten months for an appointment for an assessment for PIP with Atos. As a result of waiting for this length of time the client is now in in financial difficulty, with rent and Council Tax arrears of almost £2,600, despite his wife working full time.

A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had a stroke several months ago and is severely disabled in speech and with all forms of movement. He applied for PIP six months ago but has not received a payment or been told if he would qualify. He and his wife are suffering a lot of stress due to their financial worries, the problems of his health and the recent death of his mother. They have also had to give up their car due to his lack of income.

A South of Scotland CAB reports of a client who applied for PIP seven months ago and received a backdated award one month ago. He is eligible for 50% off road tax but this cannot be backdated. As a result of the PIP delay, he has lost seven months’ discount.

A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client who was contacted about a home visit for an assessment for PIP. However, the client was an in-patient at hospital on the arranged date and phoned to advise Atos. They told the client that it would affect any award of PIP if they did not attend. The client had to seek medical consent to leave hospital, pay £12 for a taxi and was then told by the Health Care Professional (HCP) that she couldn't carry out the assessment because the client was too ill. The client had a nasogastric tube in place and was using a wheeled walking frame. Eventually the HCP was given authority by her manager to carry out the assessment as long as the client agreed. The HCP was shocked at what the client had had to go through. After the assessment was carried out, the client had to pay a further £12 for a return fare to hospital.

CAS also surveyed Scottish CAB advisers last month to get their views on how the PIP is working. These are some of the comments advisers made:

“Current decision making time in [this area] is on average ten months plus.”

“The length of time is growing so it's currently hard to say [what the length of a typical delay is]. We have taken to referring clients to the local MP who raised each case with Atos, which sped things up. They have now told us that they cannot intervene unless the client has been waiting more than 26 weeks for an assessment.”

“We have [a] client who is undergoing cancer treatment. He has a huge amount of difficulty funding his transport to appointments for treatment, which will be eased significantly once his PIP claim is resolved. The client is having to use credit cards that are just about maxed out to fund his care needs. He has additional heating costs as well.”

“The delays cause clients to be in a state of limbo during the claiming process – neither receiving PIP nor not receiving PIP. Clients feel both stressed and uncertain throughout the claiming process.”

“Partner having to give up work to care for someone and unable to claim carers allowance due to delay in awarding PIP. This is putting a very great strain on the family.”

“Delays in receiving passported benefits continuing their financial hardship and making it difficult for clients to make the right and affordable choices in terms of their care and mobility needs.”

“Delays in applying for Blue Badge or exemption from vehicle excise duty. Clients struggle to get disabled parking close by to where they want to be and often avoid going out at all.”

“We have over 100 miles’ travel to the assessment centre (2.5 – 3 hours travel). Home visits are rare and when they do come to [the island] they only seem to complete one visit at a time.”

“In these cases [of clients affected by both PIP and ESA delays] it has caused extreme hardship, with clients relying on food banks, hand-outs from friends, etc, to try to sustain themselves. The amount of debt increases to an unmanageable degree and clients feel victimised and treated worse than criminals. The clients that I have seen have genuine health conditions verified by medical professionals and cannot work and are crippled by the idea that they can’t work – they want to but are unable.”

You can download the full report from this link


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