PIP time limits put pressure on claimants

The Workers Party has condemned an unannounced, but significant, change to the time limits for the completion of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claims. 

During the pandemic the Department for Communities extended the time allowed to complete a PIP application form from one month to 90 days. As of Monday of this week, and without warning  or consultation, the time frame for new claims has reverted to four weeks,

Apart from the fact that it is too early to be making this change the Department for Communities has placed hundreds of people in a very precarious position and is risking putting already vulnerable people under additional and unnecessary pressure.

There will be many people who are left unaware of the change in time scales and will assume that they have the full 90 days to complete their new claim form. This could easily result in rejected claims, additional pressure on claimants and people left without benefits.

The Minister must reinstate the 90 day timeframe immediately and if it is eventually necessary to revert to the one month slot there must be full consultation, advance notice and a flexible approach to its implementation.

PIP assessments cause ‘fear, anxiety and stress’

The practice of using a private company to assess people claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), is causing claimants “fear, anxiety, stress and frustration”, according to a review carried out by the Department for Communities, which oversees the PIPs scheme.

Workers Party spokesperson Hugh Scullion has criticised both the process and its effects.

“Simply stated, the PIPs assessment process is not for for purpose”, he said

“The costs associated with outsourcing the assessment process to private firm Capita are 35% higher than they were for the scheme PIPs replaced”, Hugh said. “This despite Capita not meeting it’s performance targets for quality and case clearance”.

The cost of Capitas’ contract for this assessment work is thought to be around ,£88 million over four years.

“In the region of 50% of Capita’s assessment decisions have by appealed and subsequently overturned. Almost 12% of appeals involved the failure of case managers to consider the medical evidence which had been presented to them”, he said.

“Clearly the assessment process and it’s handling by a private company has not only added  to the cost of PIPs but is placing an unnecessary and unacceptable pressure on claimants” Hugh added.

The office of the Public Service Ombudsman is due to report on the PIPs assessment process in the coming months using powers it has to investigate when there is “reasonable suspicion of systemic maladministration”.

“I am calling on the Minister to act immediately by bringing the welfare assessment process in-house bringing to an end this torturous journey for claimants and their families”, Hugh concluded