Unacceptably long delays for disabled people being medically tested for the new Personal Independence Payment have been decried by Neath MP Peter Hain who condemned the assessment system for bringing ‘delay, despair and misery to many’.
Personal Independence Payments replaced Disability Living Allowance last summer with new applicants applying for PIP while existing DLA recipients will migrate over to the new system when their awards are due to be renewed.
Mr Hain has already raised concerns over the lengthy delays applicants have experienced and speaking in a Westminster Hall debate he said, ‘In the short time that Personal Independence Payments have come into force it has quickly become evident that the system is miserably failing people and leaving some of the most vulnerable in our communities in absolute desperation.
‘What new applicants are facing though is a system of delay and despair. Many of the constituents have been waiting six months or longer; they have had their face to face assessment and are frustratingly told that ‘the report is in the final stages with a senior healthcare professional’. For those six months they have been living off savings to help them adapt to their conditions. The prospect of a backdated payment is of no comfort to them as they struggle with day to day tasks that many of us take for granted while their families suffer under the stress and strain of caring for them.
‘More recently it has emerged in cases I have been involved in that the health care reports are not up to standard with further information required. This involved going back to the assessor and requesting further information but in one case a second face to face assessment was required. In one astonishing instance it came to light in March that despite the assessment being carried out in November no assessment report had been prepared by the assessor. For these constituents their misery and distress is prolonged.
‘But this protracted ordeal is just to get the assessment report from Capita to the Department of Work and Pensions. As the assessment reports start to trickle through to the Department of Work and Pensions the trend emerging is of further delays on the final decision stage after the report has reached the DWP. So after months of waiting with Capita they not face further delays only adding to their misery.
‘The stress and anxiety this is causing people who are seriously ill including cancer suffers and an ex-serviceman with post traumatic stress disorder, is excruciating.
‘If the Atos debacle taught us anything it is the importance of getting the decision right in the first place but this should not mean waiting unacceptably long times like six, seven or eight months for a decision that could dramatically affect someone’s life.
‘Action must be taken immediately to address this inexplicably lengthy and prolonged system causing misery and despair for applicants. The turnaround of applications must be drastically reduced by both the assessment provider and the Department of Work and Pensions.’
Full speech here
NEATH MP Peter Hain is calling on a company who assess people for a disability benefit to reform it’s process before descending into “fiasco”.
Mr Hain was speaking out on behalf of thousands of people in his constituency, who are facing delays in their Capita assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Capita is the preferred assessment provider in Wales for PIP applications, which replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) last April as part of the Government’s welfare changes.
New applicants and those renewing their DLA will now have to apply for PIP, but Mr Hain says applicants have been waiting months for their assessments to be completed after initially making the application in the summer.
In a letter to Capita, Mr Hain said: “I am deeply concerned by the growing trend that is emerging around the Capita assessments for the Personal Independence Payment application and am anxious that this is dealt with swiftly and decisively before a situation similar to the protracted problems experienced with ATOS and the Employment and Support Allowance assessments develops.
“Constituents have approached me, all with the same problem, regarding the length of time.”
Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): How can the Government justify removing all phone lines to local jobcentres such as the one in Neath? How are people, especially disabled and sick people, supposed to cope with the fiendishly complex benefits system, or get into jobs, without personalised help and advice? Does the Minister not understand that the most vulnerable people often cannot get online, afford costly daily travel to jobcentres or hang on for ages on expensive 0845 lines?
Mike Penning: The 0845 numbers came in when the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister, and we are eradicating them now. Advisers are in place all the time. Most work is done online these days, but the advisers are there to help people, which is why we have been so successful in getting people into work.
Neath MP Peter Hain has condemned the punitive Welfare changes as ‘extremely costly’ for people in Neath. Mr Hain’s comments come as the Welsh Assembly released figures showing adults in Wales will be hundreds of pounds worse off as a result of the changes to the Welfare system.
People living in the Neath and Port Talbot area will be worst hit with an average loss per working age adult of £606 a year, the highest in Wales followed by Blaenau Gwent on £585 and Merthyr Tydfil £580. This equates to £54million lost across Neath and Port Talbot.
Commenting on the findings Mr Hain said, ‘these figures show just how much damage is being caused in our communities by the punitive changes to the welfare system, taking millions of pounds every year out of the local economy.
‘While the individual cost for people in receipt of these benefits will be huge the wider implications for the local economy and businesses, where this money would have been spent, is massive.’
Residents in Neath and Port Talbot will face the biggest losses in Wales in Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance with £117 and £111 lost per adult per year respectively.
Peter Hain has called on the medical assessment company Capita to urgently reform its process before it descends into the same ‘punitive fiasco’ as the ATOS assessments from Employment and Support Allowance which caused misery for thousands of local people.
Capita is the preferred assessment provider in Wales for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications which replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) last April as part of the Government’s welfare changes. New applicants and those renewing their DLA award will now have to apply for Personal Independence Payments.
Growing numbers of applicants have been waiting months for their assessments to be completed after initially making the application in the summer says Mr Hain. In a letter to Capita Mr Hain said, ,’I am deeply concerned by the growing trend that is emerging around the Capita assessments for the Personal Independence Payment application and am anxious that this is dealt with swiftly and decisively before a situation similar to the protracted problems experienced with ATOS and the Employment and Support Allowance assessments develops.
‘Constituents have approached me, all with the same problem, regarding the length of time it is taking for Capita to process their application. Typically constituents placed their application in June or July, had the face to face assessment in August or September and are still waiting for the report to be sent from Capita to the Department of Work and Pensions for a decision to be made. This simply is an unacceptable amount of time for people to wait for their application to be processed.
‘Sadly the experience that I am hearing for people who have been through the process is that from the face to face assessment to the point of Capita sending the report to the DWP the system it is prolonged and inexplicably lengthy.
‘It cannot go on that people are waiting months for their assessment to be processed, causing no end of misery for the individual and their family. I ask that you review your system and ensure that applications are dealt with promptly and efficiently and in doing so the turn around on applications is drastically reduced from its current length.’
The Neath MP has also written to Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, urging him to get a grip on the situation saying, ‘I urge you to get on top of this issue now and resolve the problems with Capita and the length of time it is taking to process the assessments before it descends into a similar shambles to that of ATOS and people with disabilities are left fending for themselves. I have asked that Capita review its systems and reduce the length of time it takes them to process applications and I ask you to take actively work to ensure Capita fulfills its obligations to effectively process those applications is a timely manner as the approved assessment provider.’