Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are now the most common problem people come to Citizens Advice with, having overtaken Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and the problems people face can affect their ability to live independently, the charity says.
Citizens Advice has called on the government to learn from past mistakes made with ESA. Analysis shows the issues people are experiencing with PIP mirror the challenges claimants faced with ESA after it was introduced as a replacement for Incapacity Benefit.
The equivalent of nearly a quarter of all PIP application and reassessment claimants for April 2015 came to the charity for help with the benefit; 11,500 people sought guidance from Citizens Advice about PIP, compared with 52,000 new claimants and reassessments the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recorded in the same month.
Similar to ESA, many people are confused about whether they qualify for PIP, while others are experiencing distress and financial troubles as decisions about their applications are delayed. Challenges over judgements and appeals are also increasing as many complain about inaccuracies in their medical assessment.
In one case, a woman who visited her local Citizens Advice for help with her PIP application is still waiting to hear if her claim has been processed more than 12 months later. She has also had numerous home visits and assessment appointments cancelled. The woman, who has serious mental health issues, told Citizens Advice the delay has resulted in financial difficulties and put her under a great deal of stress.
The top three PIP problems reported to Citizens Advice in the last year are:
• More than 100,000 queries about eligibility for PIP
• More than 50,000 on making and managing a claim issues, including problems with delays
• PIP challenges and appeals issues have increased, now standing at some 20,000.
Since PIP was introduced as a replacement for Disability Living Allowance in April 2013, Citizens Advice has helped people with more than 300,000 issues relating to the new benefit. As the national roll out of PIP continues, Citizens Advice is calling on the government to learn from the mistakes made when ESA was introduced.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People’s ability to live independently is at risk due to PIP failures. People are experiencing problems with every part of the PIP application process, causing a huge amount of stress and anxiety for those going through a very difficult time.
“ESA has proved a huge challenge with people complaining of problems with the application process, medical assessments and delays to awards. With PIP now the number one problem people come to Citizens Advice with, the Government must avoid repeating the mistakes made with ESA and focus on its safe and steady implementation.
“PIP is designed to help people who are disabled or living with serious health conditions with the extra costs they face, such as getting help with day to day tasks, but for too many people the system is not working. In order to fulfil its intention the Government needs to ensure the PIP process is implemented properly and responds to people’s changing needs.”
Figures published in June from the DWP showed delays for PIP have fallen to an average of 11 weeks for new claimants. However, Citizens Advice evidence shows some people are still waiting over a year and that delays to decisions have resulted in many people falling into debt with some relying on support from family members.