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Millions of pounds held up every month due to delays in PIP reviews

15 August 2023

Disabled people are missing out on an estimated £24 million every month because of delays to Personal Independent Payment reviews.

Personal Independent Payment (PIP) is a benefit designed to help people with a disability, long term illness, or mental health condition with extra living costs. It can be used to help pay for things such as medical equipment or transport, depending on someone’s needs.

New research from Citizens Advice has found more than 430,000 people are currently waiting for a PIP review - with some waiting over two years - leaving them to cover extra costs. 

The record number of people experiencing delays comes at a time when disabled people are some of the worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis. New research from Citizens Advice shows they are twice as likely to say they can rarely or never cover their essentials each month. Additionally, just under two thirds (61%) of the people Citizens Advice helped with food bank referrals in the past six months were disabled or had a long term health condition.

Citizens Advice’s latest report found that, in the last six months, the number of people seeking support from the charity with issues related to PIP reviews increased by 19% compared to the same period last year. This is far higher than the overall increase in PIP applications. 

More demand, more pressure

The delivery of PIP is constrained by the number of health assessments that can be carried out. Between January and April 2023, 210,000 people made a new claim for PIP, but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to recruit and train up enough staff to keep up with demand.

Citizens Advice is warning that people are often left months, sometimes years, waiting for a PIP review. An uncertain situation which can cause significant stress and anxiety on top of significant financial implications. 

Delays can also disrupt their access to other related benefits like the warm home discount. 

“I couldn’t afford the things I needed for my health” - Shirley’s story

Shirley from Hertfordshire is retired and lives with long-term health issues. A deterioration in her health and three hospital admissions during the pandemic exacerbated her existing conditions and in turn, increased her care needs. When her PIP was due for review in December 2021, Shirley sent off all the relevant forms and required medical information to the DWP, but the review took one and a half years to be processed.

During this time Shirley was forced to cut back on food and transport as her health and financial stability worsened. She was eventually granted an enhanced PIP award in May 2023.

“I kept asking for updates but all they said is that I'd hear from them in due course. One person said to me on the phone ‘I don't know what you’re moaning about, you’re getting money aren't you? While you’re getting money why complain. There's people who haven't got any.’

“My physio kept telling me to buy a sling or a support, or something that would help my arm. But I didn’t have the funds to do this - I couldn’t afford the things I needed for my health.

“Last Christmas I didn’t even have a pound to put on my gas and electric and things got worse as travelling to and from physio was costing me a lot on diesel.” 

Easing the burden 

The DWP has taken steps to halve wait times for new PIP applications from six to three months, but hundreds of thousands are still being left to wait far too long for a review of their payments. Citizens Advice is calling on the government to increase its efforts to make sure disabled people are receiving the right level of support.

Its recommendations include: building on existing efforts to make greater use of paper-based decisions and bypassing the need for time-consuming health assessments; making sure all increased PIP payments are backdated, and taking steps to prevent disruptions to other benefits linked to PIP entitlement.

Matthew Upton, Acting Executive Director of Policy & Advocacy at Citizens Advice, said:

“PIP can act as a lifeline for so many people with extra living costs linked to their health condition. But right now, hundreds of thousands are being left in limbo while they wait for a health assessment with little clarity as to when their claim will be reviewed.

“Delays don’t just pose a financially agonising wait; they can take a significant emotional toll on people every single day. 

“At a time when rising prices are putting immense pressure on disabled people’s budgets, we need a system that efficiently and effectively helps people with extra living costs - not one that causes more harm.”

Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
  2. Our network of charities offers impartial advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free.
  3. Citizens Advice helped 2.55 million people face to face, over the phone, by email and webchat in 2021-22. And we had 40.6 million visits to our website. For full service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  4. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 18,500 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 for Welsh language speakers.