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Playing catch-up: The impact of delayed health assessments for Personal Independence Payment

Playing catch-up: The impact of delayed health assessments for Personal Independence Payment 723 KB

Rising levels of ill-health in the UK combined with increasing cost of living pressures mean record numbers of people are applying for Personal Independence Payment. More applications for the benefit mean greater demand for health assessments to determine new claimants’ eligibility and review existing claimant’s awards. But challenges recruiting and training staff mean the DWP is simply not keeping up, leading to a growing backlog of people who are waiting for a health assessment.

This initially led to 6 month long delays for people accessing the benefit for the first time. And while these long wait times for new claimants have been halved, that has been achieved by pushing back reviews for existing claimants. Leaving people whose care needs have increased unable to access the higher level of support they need. 

At a time when rising prices are putting immense pressure on disabled people’s budgets, an estimated £24 million a month is being held up and prevented from reaching peoples’ pockets due to delays. With disabled people now twice as likely to be unable to cover their costs each month, compared to non-disabled people, it’s essential these delays are tackled quickly. 

There are three areas the DWP could focus on to bring down delays: 

  1. Continue to increase capacity in the system to carry out health assessments by recruiting more healthcare professionals 

  2. Take steps to reduce the number of health assessments needed by making more decisions on the basis of paper applications and medical evidence (bypassing the need for a health assessment), and making better use of auto-renewals and longer-term awards. 

  3. Introduce temporary measures to mitigate the problems experienced by people waiting for a review. That includes backdating any awards increased after a review and taking steps to prevent disruptions to passported benefits.