Millions of pounds held up every month by delays to disability benefit reviews

Disabled people are missing out on an estimated £24m every month because of delays to Personal Independent Payment (PIP) benefit reviews, according to figures from Citizens Advice.

PIP is designed to help people with a disability, long term illness, or mental health condition with extra living costs. It can be used to help pay for things such as medical equipment or transport, depending on someone’s needs. man in black jacket riding on bicycle during daytime

Research from Citizens Advice found that more than 430,000 people are currently waiting for a PIP review – with some waiting over two years – leaving them having to cover extra costs themselves.

This record number of people experiencing delays comes at a time when disabled people are some of the worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis. Research from Citizens Advice shows they are twice as likely to say they can rarely or never cover their essentials each month.

Additionally, just under two thirds (61%) of the people Citizens Advice helped with food bank referrals in the past six months were disabled or had a long term health condition.

Citizens Advice’s latest report found that, in the last six months, the number of people seeking support from the charity with issues related to PIP reviews increased by 19% compared to the same period last year. This is far higher than the overall increase in PIP applications.

The delivery of PIP is constrained by the number of health assessments that can be carried out. Between January and April 2023, 210,000 people made a new claim for PIP, but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to recruit and train up enough staff to keep up with demand.

Citizens Advice warned that people are often left months, sometimes years, waiting for a PIP review – an uncertain situation which can cause significant stress and anxiety on top of significant financial implications.

Delays can also disrupt their access to other related benefits like the warm home discount.

The DWP has taken steps to halve wait times for new PIP applications from six to three months, but hundreds of thousands are still being left to wait too long for a review of their payments. Citizens Advice called on the government to increase its efforts to make sure disabled people are receiving the right level of support.

Its recommendations include greater use of paper-based decisions that bypass the need for time-consuming health assessments, making sure all increased PIP payments are backdated, and taking steps to prevent disruptions to other benefits linked to PIP entitlement.

Matthew Upton, acting executive director of policy and advocacy at Citizens Advice, said: ‘PIP can act as a lifeline for so many people with extra living costs linked to their health condition. But right now, hundreds of thousands are being left in limbo while they wait for a health assessment with little clarity as to when their claim will be reviewed.

‘Delays don’t just pose a financially agonising wait; they can take a significant emotional toll on people every single day.

‘At a time when rising prices are putting immense pressure on disabled people’s budgets, we need a system that efficiently and effectively helps people with extra living costs – not one that causes more harm.’

Image: Vicky Hladynets

More on this topic: 

More than a quarter of disabled workers stuck in insecure work, study shows

Millions of Disabled people to start receiving Cost of Living payment


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