PAC: DWP’s failure to pilot benefit scheme led to ‘unnecessary distress for claimants’

The Department for Work and Pensions’ failure to pilot its Personal Independence Payment (PIP) programme has led to delays, backlogs and “unnecessary distress for claimants”, according to a report published today by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Sir Nigel Sheinwald – image: Thomas Cain/AP/Press Association Images

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

20 Jun 2014

The payment scheme – a new, non-means tested benefit aimed at helping claimants with the extra costs of living with a disability – was rolled out in June 2013 to replace the previous Disability Living Allowance, and is intended to create £3bn in annual savings from 2018-19.

DWP administers and awards the claims for PIP, and pays private sector contractors Atos and Capita to assess claimants’ needs.

PAC’s report says the department had “rushed the introduction of PIP” and that that the resources the contractors projected for the operation was “inadequate”, meaning that benefit decisions were delayed. It accuses the department of relying on ill-founded assurances provided by the contractors that the necessary capacity would be provided.

The delays claimants are suffering before receiving a decision on their claim, the report says, are “causing unacceptable pressures and stress for claimants”.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge (pictured) said PIP’s implementation has been “nothing short of a fiasco”, adding that DWP “has let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom have had to wait more than six months for their claims to be decided”.

She said: “The standard of service provided by the department and its contractors has been unacceptable. Claimants have experienced difficulties in arranging appointments – and assessors have cancelled home visits at the last minute, and have failed to turn up when claimants have travelled to assessment centres.”

Capita admitted it had cancelled home visits “due to a problem in its scheduling system”, the report says.

The report calls on DWP to test and pilot new systems and policies before they are implemented nationally.

It also says the department should simplify the application process, which it describes as “cumbersome and difficult for claimants”.

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