MPs have said that the wait time of six months or more is unacceptable for disabled and sick people waiting to find out if they are eligible for benefits due to government changes.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee have said that these delays to decisions about the new personal independence payment were causing stress and uncertainty.
Claims for the new PIP, replacing the disability living allowance, began in April 2013 and are worth between £21-£134 a week, reports the BBC.
Most people applying for PIP have to have face-to-face assessments to determine their eligibility. This is carried out by private contractors Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services.
A report by the National Audit Office last month found that claimants were waiting on average 107 days for decisions on their cases. Terminally ill patients were waiting around 28 days.
Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the cross-party committee has said that the time it is taking in some cases is “completely unacceptable”.
The MPS want the average time to process new cases to be reduced to 74 days and seven days for terminally ill people.
Dame Anne says: “It is vital that all disabled people, but especially the terminally ill, experience as little delay and stress as possible in making a claim. By the end of last year, decisions had been made in fewer than 20% of new claims submitted since April 2013. It is essential that the backlog is cleared before the limited natural reassessment of existing DLA claims is extended any further.”
Macmillan Cancer Support have said that the time being taken in many cases was “appalling” and the government must agree to publish waiting times for decisions on a quarterly basis.
The introduction of PIP is just one in a series of welfare changes the government is undertaking in order to reduce the benefits bill and encourage greater self-reliance and incentives to work.
A spokesman for the DWP has said: “In some cases this end-to-end claims process is taking longer than the old system of Disability Living Allowance, which relied on a self-assessment form. We are working with providers to ensure that all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be and the benefit is backdated so no-one is left out of pocket.”
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