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PIP failures are risking people’s ability to live independently, says Citizens Advice

16 August 2015

As Personal Independence Payments (PIP) overtake Employment Support Allowance (ESA) as the most common problem people come to Citizens Advice for help with, the charity urges the government to learn from past mistakes.

Analysis shows the issues people are experiencing with PIP mirror the challenges claimants faced with ESA after it was introduced as a replacement for Incapacity Benefit.

The equivalent of nearly a quarter of all PIP application and reassessment claimants for April 2015 came to the charity for help with the benefit.

The figures show 11,500 people sought guidance from Citizens Advice about PIP, compared with 52,000 new claimants and reassessments the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recorded in the same month.

Just like with ESA, people are confused about whether they qualify for PIP and others are experiencing distress and financial troubles as decisions about their applications are delayed. Challenges over judgements and appeals are also increasing as many complain about inaccuracies in their medical assessment. .

The top three PIP problems reported to Citizens Advice in the last year are:

  • Over 100,000 queries about eligibility for PIP.
  • Over 50,000 making and managing a claim issues, including problems with delays.
  • PIP challenges and appeals issues have increased, now standing at over 20,000.

In one case, a woman who visited her local Citizens Advice for help with her PIP application is still waiting to hear if her claim has been processed more than 12 months later. She has also had numerous home visits and assessment appointments cancelled. The woman, who has serious mental health issues, told Citizens Advice the delay has resulted in financial difficulties and put her under a great deal of stress.

Since PIP was introduced as a replacement for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in April 2013, Citizens Advice has helped people with over 300,000 issues relating to the new benefit. As the national roll out of PIP continues, Citizens Advice is calling on the government to learn from the mistakes made when ESA was introduced.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“People’s ability to live independently is at risk due to PIP failures.  People are experiencing problems with every part of the PIP application process, causing a huge amount of stress and anxiety for those going through a very difficult time.

“ESA has proved a huge challenge with people complaining of problems with the application process, medical assessments and delays to awards. With PIP now the number one problem people come to Citizens Advice with, the Government must avoid repeating the mistakes made with ESA and focus on its safe and steady implementation.

“PIP is designed to help people who are disabled or living with serious health conditions with the extra costs they face, such as getting help with day to day tasks, but for too many people the system is not working. In order to fulfil its intention the Government needs to ensure the PIP process is implemented properly and responds to people’s changing needs.”

Figures published in June 2015 from the Department of Work and Pensions show delays for PIP have fallen to an average of eleven weeks for new claimants. However, Citizens Advice evidence shows some people are still waiting over a year and that delays to decisions have resulted in many people falling into debt with some relying on support from family members.

Notes to editors

1.      The Extra Costs Commission found that disabled people pay on average £550 per month more than people who are not disabled on everyday living costs.  The average award of PIP at £360 per month.

2.      The total number for DWP new claimants and reassessments in April 2015 was 52,000. People coming to help with PIP issues to Citizens Advice in the same month was 11,580. Here is a link to the DWP data

3.      PIP offers to other forms of financial and practical support is vital. PIP is not just an important benefit in itself, but is also a passport to wider support networks. With funding for social care under pressure, receipt of PIP is now an important eligibility requirement for access to many local services. It also serves as an indirect source of support to the families and carers of people with disabilities;for example, it is a critical component of eligibility for Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for the UK’s 6 million unpaid carers.

4.      Citizens Advice supports claimants with a broad range of issues with their PIP application long term illness, have been involved in an accident or have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

5.      The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which areindependent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.

6.      The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

7.      To find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or to get advice online, visit

8.      You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.

9.      Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends.

10.  Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.