Some terminally ill people are waiting a month to receive vital support, whilst other claimants are waiting an average of 107 days. That’s more than four weeks longer than the government predicted.
The National Audit Office have also cast doubt on whether the new Personal Independence Payment, which will replace Disability Living Allowance, will ever be value for money.
Within six months that PIP was rolled out in the north of England in April 2013, a backlog of 92,000 cases built up with private contractors Atos and Capita. The Department of Work and Pensions had made decisions in only 16% of the expected number of cases. In fact, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship programme has performed so poorly that the Department has been forced to stagger the full national roll-out of PIPs, which raises doubts that it will never deliver value for money in the long term.
As waiting times are longer than the predicted processing times of 74 days for most claimants and 10 days for those who are terminally ill, it is already forecast to save £140 million less than expected. Meanwhile people in desperate need of money are left without support.
The DWP now predicts it will save £640 million a year by 2015, rather than its prediction of £780 million. However, the government still expects to achieve annual savings of £3 billion by 2018/19, with 3.6 million claims assessed by 2018.
Each new PIP claim – worth between £21 and £134 a week to disabled claimants – costs an average £182 to administer, compared to £49 under DLA, said the report.
“It is too early to conclude on the Personal Independence Payment programme’s overall success and all major programmes run the risk of early operational problems,” said Mr Morse. “However the Department did not allow enough time to test whether the assessment process could handle large numbers of claims. As a result of this poor early operational performance, claimants face long and uncertain delays and the Department has had to delay the wider roll-out of the programme. Because it may take some time to resolve the delays, the Department has increased the risk that the programme will not deliver value for money in the longer term.”
The chairwoman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, said: “I was shocked to learn that, not only will Personal Independence Payment claims cost almost three and half times more to administer than Disability Living Allowance, they also take double the amount of time to process. The current backlog and delays in processing claims are simply unacceptable and will no doubt cause real distress for vulnerable claimants. Without the Department for Work and Pensions sharing details of how long claims should and do take, claimants are left facing uncertainty and potential financial difficulties whilst waiting for a decision.”
Responding to Mrs Hodge, a DWP spokesman said: “PIP is a completely new benefit with a face-to-face assessment, something missing under DLA, and there will always be initial costs so this is not comparing like with like. The figures show good value for money for taxpayers in the short and long term, with expected savings of £3 billion annually by 2018/19.
read the rest of this article by Felicity Morse in the Independent, 27/2/14, here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/disability-rights-disgrace-terminally-ill-people-facing-distress-and-financial-difficulty-for-weeks-because-of-delays-in-atosmanaged-benefits-contract-9156999.html