DWP issues new assurance on PIP claims backlog as waiting times cut by 11 weeks

A woman looking frustrated as she reads a rejection letter
The DWP has addressed criticisms of the process for claiming PIP (Personal Independence Payment) including delays in decisions on new claims and reviews of existing claims -Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Department for Work and Pensions has issued a new update on steps being taken to reduce a huge backlog in Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The time taken to deal with new applications for the benefit has been cut by 11 weeks and reviews of existing claims have been streamlined, a minister has assured MPs.

Mims Davies, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, delivered the response in a parliamentary debate on disability benefits, in which the DWP was criticised for its handling of PIP and accused of "failing" disabled people with "an assessment process that does not understand their needs."

Opening the debate, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour, Slough) addressed the issue of increased demand for PIP and the lengthy waiting times for dealing with claims. He said: "The latest statistics from the House of Commons Library found that the most common main disabling conditions among claimants of PIP were psychiatric disorders. Nationwide, 37.7% of PIP claims were due to those. With mental health waiting lists ballooning under the Conservatives, it is unfortunately not a surprising statistic.

"When the Government leaves suffering people for far too long - people often see their condition worsen before being able to access treatment - it is no wonder that the number is so unacceptably high. I believe that begs a question: will the Minister admit that her party's policies on mental health over the past 14 years have significantly contributed to the PIP backlog?"


Mr Dhesi went on to say: "The latest numbers from Macmillan Cancer Support show that claimants are still waiting 15 weeks on average for their PIP claim to be processed. Unacceptably, that is higher than it was at the same time last year. Four in five people living with cancer are facing an increased financial impact from their diagnosis, even before the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

"It is unacceptable that the Government have failed to fix those issues, which affect our constituents at some of the most difficult periods in their lives. The Government announced extra funding for processing disability claims in the Budget, but can the Minister clarify how exactly that will be used to reduce delays?"

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Mr Dhesi added: "We stand at a crossroads where the choices we make can significantly enhance the lives of thousands. By advocating for a system that truly understands the variable and complex nature of disabilities, we advocate for a society that places dignity, empathy and support at its heart.

"This is not just about adjusting guidelines or streamlining processes; it is about ensuring that every individual feels seen, heard and valued. Our commitment to reforming PIP and other disability benefits is a testament to our dedication to justice and equity for all citizens, regardless of their physical or mental health challenges."

Closing the debate, Mims Davies addressed points that had been raised and said the process was being improved, as shown by the low proportion of original decisions that have been overturned on appeal and the levels of satisfaction reported. She said: "With PIP, there were three million decisions from October 2018 to September 2023; 8% were appealed, with 5% cleared at tribunal and 3% overturned.

"The proportion of those people in receipt of PIP with a mental health condition who are getting top rates is actually six times higher compared with DLA (Disability Living Allowance). PIP is at 41% and DLA is at 7%. I will just point out that customer satisfaction for PIP customers was 77%, with different scores according to different providers; again, I will go away and have a look at that."

She continued: "The hon. Member for Slough talked about PIP clearance times. We have increased the number of case managers - health professional assessment providers - to deal with the increased demand and we have addressed the blend of phone, video and face-to-face meetings to ensure that it is more centred on service users and is suitable.

"We have also empowered case managers, where they have robust evidence, to make decisions on award reviews, without referral to an assessment provider, so that decisions are quicker and we can avoid claims going out of payment. I am very much looking at that myself, and the end-to-end claim process for new claims has been reduced from 26 weeks in August 2021 to a current wait of 15 weeks."

Ms Davies concluded: "We are in a better position than we were before the pandemic. That is an achievement that I am proud of. Is there more to do? Absolutely, yes, but again I want those who are watching or listening to this debate to see that this is a big focus.

"We are fully committed to delivering on the issues that matter to the British people. This is delivering for disabled people. It is an absolute mission for me in this role to make sure that the most vulnerable members of our society lead decent, fulfilling lives and I will use my time in this role to make sure that I can make the changes that everybody would wish to see."

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